Membrane processes constitute a well-established branch of separation techniques (see Table 3.8.3). They work on continuous flows, are easily automated, and can be adapted to work on several physical parameters such as:

• Molecular size

• Ionic character of compounds

• Hydrophilic or hydrophobic character of components

Microfiltration, ultrafiltration, and reverse osmosis differ mainly in the size of the particles that the membrane can separate as follows:

Microfiltration uses membranes having pore diameters of 0.1 to 10 /m for filtering suspended particles, bacteria, or large colloids from solutions. Ultrafiltration uses membranes having pore diameters in the range of 22,000 Â for filtering dissolved macro-molecules, such as proteins from solutions.

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