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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Assessment of the environmental impact of polymeric membrane production

Yadav, Pooja; Ismail, Norafiqah; Essalhi, Mohamed; Tysklind, Mats; Athanassiadis, Dimitris; Tavajohi, Naser

Abstract

Polymeric membranes are important in advanced separation technologies because of their high efficiency and low environmental impact. However, procedures for membrane production are far from sustainable and environmentally friendly. This work presents a life cycle assessment of the environmental impact of fabricating 1000 m(2) of hollow fiber polymeric membranes. Membrane materials considered include the most popular fossil- and bio-based polymers in current use, i.e., polysulfones, polyvinylidene fluoride, and cellulose acetate. Solvents considered for use in polymer dope solution included polar aprotic solvents (N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone, N, N-dimethylacetamide, and dimethylformamide) that are widely used in industry and an alternative green solvent (ethylene carbonate). The impacts of membrane production on global warming, marine ecotoxicity, human carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic toxicity, land use potential, and fossil resource scarcity were analyzed. Additionally, the impact on the sustainability and environmental cost of membrane production resulting from replacing fossil-based polymers with bio-based polymers or substituting toxic solvents with a green alternative was investigated. Hot spots in the membrane production process were identified, and measures to reduce the environmental impact of membrane production were proposed.

Keywords

Polymeric membranes; Hollow fiber Membrane; Life cycle assessment; Environmental impact; Environmental cost; Sustainability

Published in

Journal of Membrane Science
2021, Volume: 622, article number: 118987