Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Clean water and sanitation Industry, innovation and infrastructure Sustainable cities Responsible consumption and production

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

Basic elements of membrane separation technologies and applications. The course is mainly addressed to membranes and membrane processes typical of process industry as well as of environmental engineering.

Course contents


The course is addressed to master students on environmental engineering and/or on chemical engineering.

A prior knowledge and understanding of basic concepts of process engineering and transport phenomena, particularly of mass transfer, is required to attend with profit this course. In addition, students should master a general knowledge of systems, problems and applications of conventional separation processes.

Fluent spoken and written Italian is a necessary pre-requisite: all lectures and tutorials, and main part of study material will be in Italian


UNIT 1. Introduction on membrane technology

Separation processes in process industry and in environmental application: basic features and relevance. Fundamentals of membrane technologies. Basic definitions. Membranes and membrane processes classification. Preliminary description of membrane processes for liquid and gas phases. Membrane reactors and bio-reactors.

UNIT 2. Membranes and modules

Description of the main manufacturing techniques of polymeric and ceramic membranes. Membrane geometries. Parameters and techniques for membrane characterization (cutoff, rejection, permeability, permeance, breakthrough pressure, etc. )

Technical features of modules: tubular, spiral wound, hollow fibers, plate&frame. Fluidodynamic analysis and calculation procedures of mass transfer coefficients for different modules geometries. Technical sheets.

UNIT 3. Main membrane processes for liquid streams

Reverse Osmosis, Nanofiltration, Ultrafiltration, Microfiltration. Transport phenomena and thermodynamics in membrane processes: osmotic pressure, Mason&Lonsdale model, solution-diffusion model and others for RO and NF; the role of concentration polarization and gel-layer model; resistances models and porous vision.

UNIT 4. Membrane systems and equipment.

Parameters. Plant configurations and modules arrangement: continuous and batch plants, tree configuration, stage arrangements, “feed& bleed” configuration, etc.

Basic design: data required, mass balances, degree of freedom analysis, plant specifications, minimum area calculation, working point of a “feed&bleed” stage, stages numbers calculation.

Economics: main cost items of a plant (capital, operative, energy, maintainance, membranes replacement, etc. ) and process design quantites.

UNIT 5. Membranes and modules characterization. Examples.

Typical experimental data for UF, RO and NF. Calculations from data sheets. Design of RO desalting plants basing on free software packages: examples. Design of UF plants in feed&bleed configuration: a case study. Diafiltration mode: discussion. Desalting plants and energy recovery (pressure exchanger). Examples of integrated and/or hybrid processes for wastewater treatment and/or stream fractionation.

UNIT 6. Membrane BioReactors(MBR) for wastewater treatment.

Summary of conventional biological treatment of waste waters; submerged membranes and comparison with conventional techniques. Membranes and equipment; plant managements: fouling, backflushing, cleaning procedures, etc. Examples.

UNIT 7. Gas separation “pressure-driven” membrane technologies

Basic principles and applications. Case studies: hydrogen recovery, CO2/CH4 separation, air fractionation. Mass transfer modelling and process parameters.

UNIT 8. Other processes and Membrane Contactors

Dialysis and Emodialysis.

“Thermal-based” separation techniques. Pervaporation: ethanol dehydration and VOC removal from process water; mass transfer modelling and process parameters. Vapor Permeation. Membrane Distillation opportunities.

Membrane Contactors: basic aspects, comparison with conventional absorption/stripping/extraction equipment; mass transfer. Applications and examples.

New Processes: Organic Solvent Nanofiltration (OSN), etc.

Ion Exchange membrane-based processes: homopolar and bipolar membranes; elementary cells and stacks; operative parameters. Processes and equipment: Electrodialysis, Donnan Dialysis, Electrodeionization, etc.



• Cheryan M., Ultrafiltration and microfiltration handbook, Technomic, 1998

• Winston Ho W.S., Sirkar K.K., Membrane Handbook, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992

• Rautenbach R., Albert R., Membrane processes, John Wiley&Sons 1989

• Mulder, M, Basic principles of membrane technology, Kluwer Academic, 1991

• Teachers' notes uploaded in the proper UNIBO web site .

Teaching methods

In-class lessons and tutorials.

Lab visit to get practice with membranes, modules and pilot equipment.

Seminars on on-going research activities.

Seminars from external experts.

Assessment methods

Examination comprises a project test and an oral test.

“project test”: presentation of a written report about the results obtained during the development of a project assigned by the professor; the report should be mailed 5-five days before the oral session.

oral test”: dissertation about the “project test” results followed by a traditional oral test on the typical topics developed during in-class lessons.The "oral test" starts with a "short written test" (maximum 1 hour long). A minimum score of 4.5/8 is required.

The sum of the scores in each test leads to the final score. The student should demonstrate a sufficient knowledge of membrane processes basis and a good ability for a clear application of them.

The project can be developed by groups of maximum 3 people (2 people is preferred), however each component of the group can pass the exam in different calls.

Office hours

See the website of Serena Bandini