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Membrane Materials and Module Development, Historical Perspective

Membrane Materials, Characterization, and Module Design

  1. Jane Kucera

Published Online: 27 SEP 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118522318.emst033

Encyclopedia of Membrane Science and Technology

Encyclopedia of Membrane Science and Technology

How to Cite

Kucera, J. 2013. Membrane Materials and Module Development, Historical Perspective. Encyclopedia of Membrane Science and Technology. 1–58.

Author Information

  1. NALCO – An ECOLAB Company, Naperville, IL

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 27 SEP 2013


The recorded history of membrane-based separations can be traced back to the mid-eighteenth century, when Abbe Nollet “observed” the phenomenon of osmosis. Over 100 years later, Fick formulated his Law of Diffusion through membranes (which is still today considered fundamental to understanding membrane transport). However, little other substantive development work with membranes was undertaken prior to the early 1900s, and efforts after the turn of the century were focused primarily on microfiltration. It was not until the mid-twentieth century that membranes and membrane-based technologies began to flourish.

In the 50 +  years since then, development of synthetic membranes has resulted in a number of membranes, varieties and applications. Membranes have been prepared from an assortment of organic (polymeric) and inorganic (ceramic) materials, and have been used for such diverse separations as gas from gas; gas from liquid; liquid from liquid; dissolved solids from liquid; and suspended solids from liquids.

This article chronicles the development of membrane materials, from early efforts using microfiltration to culture bacteria, through the prolific growth of membranes in the latter half of the twentieth century, to the advent of nanotechnology in polymeric and ceramic membranes. In addition to details about membrane materials, preparation methods, and modularization techniques, the drivers for development are discussed.


  • membranes;
  • reverse osmosis;
  • nanofiltration;
  • microfiltration;
  • ultrafiltration;
  • membrane modules;
  • membrane history;
  • membrane development