Membrane & Module

Membrane configuration

There are three different configurations in terms of the shape of membrane as shown below.

Flat sheet                                           Hollow fiber                                                   Tubular

product_art_02                 Membra1                      inducor-0008-corBJW

Ref) Sepro membrane Inc.                Ref) GE Power & Water           Ref) Koch Membrane Systems

Module configuration

  • Plate and frame (PF) – It was developed for relatively small scale applications that deal with high membrane fouling potential. But the module structure is complex to seal the spaces among the membrane plates and pressure loss across the module is high due to the zigzag flow. Today, PF is primarily used for electrodialysis, leachate filtration, etc.

Membra9  Membra2  Membra3

Individual plate (Pall Corporation)        Flow diagram                                         Module (Pall Disc-TubeTM)

Plate and frame (PF) with mechanical agitation – FMXTM (Filmax) was developed by BKT for difficult water to filter especially with high solids contents . Module structure is similar to conventional PF modules shown above, but there are rotating vortex generators in between two membrane plates. This module has a high potential for filtering the water that cannot be filtered by conventional membrane modules, e.g. digestate & livestock wastewater, fruit juice, leachate, frac/flowback water, etc. MF, UF, NF, RO membranes can be  equipped on both sides of discs depending on the filtration purpose. More information is available here.


  • Spiral Wound (SW) – Developed in 1970’s to make plate & frame modules more compact for the feed with low fouling potential. It provides large specific surface area at relatively low costs. Feed water flows through feed channel parallel to the axis. The permeate travels permeate channel to be collected in the center pipe as shown in the figure below. This module configuration is most commonly used with the membranes with tight pore sizes such as UF, NF, and RO.


SW module structure (from MTR Inc.)

  • Hollow fiber in pressure vessel – Uses pressure as a driving force to filter water. It is commonly used for surface water treatment, tertiary filtration of secondary effluent, product recovery, etc.


  • Immersed (or submerged) module – Modules without pressure vessel are directly immersed in feed water. Permeate is obtained by vacuum pressure. It is most commonly used in MBR (iMBR) for wastewater treatment, surface water treatment, and tertiary filtration. Both hollow fiber and flat sheet membranes can be used.
GE's immersed hollow fiber module Membra5
GE’s immersed hollow fiber module Kubota’s immersed flat sheet module


  • Tubular  – Traditionally used for pressure filtration with feed water recirculation through lumen. Air bubbles are introduced to the bottom of the vertically mounted modules with multi-tubes in recently developed Norit’s AirliftTMmodules to aid the scouring effect of feed water circulating through the lumen by pump.  

Membra8    Membra7

Norit AirliftTM process diagram (Futselaar, 2007)                           Norit AirliftTM tubular module

Table 1. Summary of membrane and module configurations.

Membrane configuration Module configuration or operating method Driving force Pore size Common Applications Example (Links)
Flat Sheet (FS) Plate and frame (PF) Pressure MF/UF WWT, EDI Pall DT™, Electrocell (EC)
Immersed membranes Vacuum MF/UF iMBR Kubota, Toray Membray,Mycrodyne Bio-Cel®, Pure Envitech SBM
Spiral wound (SW) Pressure UF/RO DS, PR Dow Filmtec, Hydranautics, Toray Romembra, Woongjin CSM®
Hollow Fiber (HF) Contained in pressure vessels Pressure MF/UF/RO WT, PR, etc. Asahi Microza®, Toyobo Hollowsep®, GE ZW1500
Immersed module without pressure vessels Vacuum MF/UF WT, iMBR GE ZW500, Asahi Microza®,Mitsubishi Sterapore™, Econity
Tubular (TB) Pressure filtration Pressure MF/UF WWT, PR, sMBR Koch Abcor®, ITT PCI,
Vacuum filtration with bubbling Vacuum MF/UF sMBR Norit AirliftTM

DS: Desalination, ED: Electrodialysis, PR: Process Recovery, WT: Water Treatment, WWT: Wastewater Treatment

© Seong Hoon Yoon