PatentDe  


Dokumentenidentifikation EP0269721 13.10.1994
EP-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0269721
Titel ULTRAFILTRATIONSVORRICHTUNG.
Anmelder Niesen, Lawrence J., Edgewater, N.J., US
Erfinder Niesen, Lawrence J., Edgewater, N.J., US
Vertreter derzeit kein Vertreter bestellt
DE-Aktenzeichen 3750497
Vertragsstaaten AT, BE, CH, DE, FR, GB, IT, LI, LU, NL, SE
Sprache des Dokument En
EP-Anmeldetag 09.06.1987
EP-Aktenzeichen 879041978
WO-Anmeldetag 09.06.1987
PCT-Aktenzeichen US8701413
WO-Veröffentlichungsnummer 8707525
WO-Veröffentlichungsdatum 17.12.1987
EP-Offenlegungsdatum 08.06.1988
EP date of grant 07.09.1994
Veröffentlichungstag im Patentblatt 13.10.1994
IPC-Hauptklasse B01D 61/18

Beschreibung[en]

This invention relates to an apparatus for separating a base liquid into a permeate fraction and a retentate fraction comprising:

a semi-permeable membrane for separating the base liquid into the fractions;

a base liquid flow path disposed on a first side of said membrane, and

permeate flow channel means disposed on the opposite second side of the membrane and being provided on a support for carrying said membrane, such that a portion of the base liquid entering said base liquid flow path and comprising said permeate fraction flows through the membrane and into said permeate flow channel means.

An apparatus of this general type is disclosed in WO-A-82/00102. In the known apparatus referred to as a membrane plasmapheresis module a folded membrane is positioned between structured surfaces of adjacent plates defining a blood inlet port and a blood outlet port positioned at the ends of one first flow path on one side of the membrane and further defining a plasma outlet port adjacent one end of separate, second flow paths extending along the other side of the membrane.

Generally, this invention pertains to the art of separating a liquid into fractions by pressure-driven flow through semi-permeable membranes, known as ultrafiltration, and more particularly, to apparatus adapted to accomplish that task.

Ultrafiltration is the general term applied to the process of separating a liquid into fractions by pressure-driven flow through semi-permeable membranes. By proper selection of the membrane material, it is possible to separate liquids based upon molecular weight, thus obtaining a permeate of extremely high purity. Such processes find wide application in a number of industries, as for separating milk used in cheese making into whey and milk precheese product, and in concentrating antibiotics from a fermentation broth.

Two distinctions are important in identifying the position of the present invention in relation to the art. First, the art classifies filtration processes into microfiltration, ultrafiltraton, and hyperfiltration (or reverse osmosis). The distinction between these processes is based primarily upon the pore size of the membranes employed and the pressure at which the systems operate. Microfiltration operates at a relatively large pore size (0.02-2.0 µm) and low pressure [21 to 105 N/cm² (30-150 psi)]. Hyperfilatration, or reverse osmosis, operates at pore sizes from the range of 5-15 angstroms down to the micromolecular and ionic size range (molecular weights of 150 and below), and at pressures in the range of 141 to 703 N/cm² (200-1000 psi). Ultrafiltration operates at values between these two processes, at molecular weight cutoffs ranging from 200 to 350,000 and pore diameters of from about 10 to 1000 angstroms. Although the preferred embodiment of the present invention is directed primarily toward ultrafiltration, the invention would operate equally well in a microfiltration role, and it could be adapted to hyperfiltration equipment as well.

Second, the field of ultrafiltration encompasses several means of effecting the separation of a liquid into fractions. At the outset, it should be understood that ultrafiltration does not operate in a manner analogous to "filtering" processes, in which a liquid is passed through a filter disposed transverse to the flow path, with undesirable solids being retained by the filter and the objective being a clarified liquid output. Rather, ultrafiltration seeks to separate a base liquid into two fractions by placing the liquid in the presence of a semi-permeable membrane; one portion of the liquid (termed the permeate) will pass through the membrane, and the other will remain in the base liquid stream, termed the retenate. Thus, ultrafiltration systems pass a base liquid across, rather than through, the filration means. Also, depending upon the specific application, one fraction or the other may be the desired product of the process. For example, in cheese manufacure, the desired product is the retenate (precheese liquid), while in a juice manufacturing process the object is the permeate, a clarified fruit juice.

Several methods of ultrafiltration have been suggested by the art. Of primary concern to the present invention are the methods classified as "plate and frame" ultrafiltration, in which a series of plates support semi-permeable membranes, and the base liquid is passed across these membranes for filtration. Other methods include spiral membrane apparatus, in which the membrane is wrapped in a perforate collection tube, the base liquid being passed throught the tube longitudinally. A membrane also may be presented in tubular form, with the base liquid passed within the tube and the permeate passing through the tube and collecting within the membrane housing. Alternatively, hollow fiber membranes have been offered, with a bundle of hollow fiber membranes contained within a tubular housing. Base liquid is passed though the cores of the fibers, and permeate is collected from the channels surrounding the fibers. The disadvantages of these methods, when compared to the present invention, will be clear to those skilled in the art.

The preferred plate-and-frame processes depend, of course, on the presentation of a large membrane area to the base liquid, and it is known in the art to employ membrane supports, with membrane material disposed on both sides of a plate and the plates arranged in a stack. Generally, such a stack is provided with input and output flow passages for the base liquid, disposed on opposite sides of the stack such that liquid can flow to one side of a plate and thence between the membranes of adjacent plates, allowing the base liquid to come into intimate contact, under pressure, with the membrane surface to permit ultrafiltration. Because one pass through the system generally does not suffice to provide complete extraction of the desired constituents, the retenate usually is recirculated through the ultrafiltration apparatus several times. Further, it is known to divide the stack into subassemblies, each subassembly having input and output passages, such that liquid flows in parallel across the membranes of all support members of a subassembly, and the output of one subassembly flows to the input of a succeeding subassembly.

The apparatus available to date has exbhibited a number of problems. Ultrafiltration equipment is evaluated based on two criteria -- the concentration ratio, reflecting the maximum concentration to which the base liquid can be processed (defined as the ratio of initial volume of base liquid to the final volume after processing), and the flux rate, defined as the volume of permeate that passes through a given area of membrane per unit of time, generally expressed as gallons of permeate per square foot of membrane per day (GFD). These two factors will determine the specifications of an ultrafiltration apparatus chosen for a particular application.

Typical of the apparatus offered by the art is the ellipsoidal structure seen in US-A-3,872,015. As disclosed, the apparatus is similar to that discussed above, with each plate-like member being ellipsoidal in form. Each plate also has two openings formed toward the ends of the major axis, so that when the stack is formed by passing retaining bolts through the aligned openings, inlet and outlet passages are formed. Curved grooves in the surface of the plate extend from one opening to the other. These grooves generally can be described as forming a set of concentric ellipses of increasingly smaller periphery. Blocking members placed in one opening of periodically-spaced members serve to divide the stack into subassemblies, as discussed.

Base liquid flows through the inlet passage of a subassembly and passes into the gap between adjacent membranes. The fluid pressure of the base liquid forces both membranes against the respective plate surfaces, so that liquid flows within channels corresponding to the surface grooves. Given that the fluid pressure at the head of all channels is equal and that the flow path in the outer channels is significantly longer than that of the inner channels, basic principles of fluid dynamics would lead one to expect the flow velocity in the inner channels to be significantly greater than in the outer channels. That expectation is borne out in operation. As the viscosity of the retenate increases, fluid velocity in the outer channels decrease, ultimately dropping to zero, at which point the channel plugs. The relatively short inner channels in effect "short-circuit" the flow pattern, and this process continues as the base liquid becomes more concentrated with repeated recirculation through the system.

The assignee of this patent has attempted to alleviate this problem by eliminating the central portion of the plate, leaving an ellipsoidal ring, and by increasing the depth of the outer (longer) channels. That design does ameliorate the plugging problem, but at the expense of reduced output (from reduced membrane area) and higher cost (from inefficient production of membrane material -- the cutout central section cannot be put to other use). Moreover, observation of this design reveals that the uneven flow rate leads to uncertainty as to which channels will plug first, as sometimes an inner channel plugs, and at other times an outer channel will become blocked. The problems with this design stem directly from the provision of flow channels of uneven length, and appear inherent in such configurations.

An alternative approach is disclosed in US-A-Re. 30,632 (a reissue of US-A-3,831,763). The basic structure of this device is similar to that discussed above, but here the plates are rectangular, and joining members are disposed between adjacent plates to promote sealing and to define the space into which the base liquid flows between plates. Each plate has two openings, defining inlet and outlet passages, and intermediate plates, having only one such opening, serve to divide the stack into subassemblies. A depression is formed into the surface of both sides of a plate, and packing material is carried therein to permit collection of permeate, and the membranes are carried atop this material. A variant form of this device, offered by the assignee of this patent, substitutes raised ridges, formed in the surface of the depression and extending across same.

Two problems have arisen in the application of this device to fields requiring operation over wide viscosity ranges. First, the inclusion of joining members (typically, gaskets) at the outer periphery of each plate limits the pressure at which the base liquid can be introduced into the inlet passages. Of course, such a limitation restricts the overall flow rate and the resultant output.

This design also does not prevent deposition of solids from the base liquid, particularly in high-viscosity applications. As with the previous device, the problem stems from the basic principles of fluid dynamics. It is well known that fluid flow within a channel is not uniform but exhibits a velocity profile from one side of the channel to the other. Velocity is lowest at the sides of the channel (indeed, it is zero within a boundary layer in contact with the channel wall). Further, the velocity differential across the channel is related to the viscosity of the fluid (higher viscosity produces a higher differential) and to the size of the channel (wider channels result in a more pronounced zone of significantly lower velocity). These theoretical predictions again are seen to occur in practice. When employed in an antibiotic application, where the base fluid contains a high level of suspended solids, flow velocity of the broth at the edges of this device is not sufficiently high to avoid deposition, restricting the flow to an increasingly small area toward the center of each plate. Output suffers, both from the reduced permeate flow and from the increased requirement to clean and change membranes.

A common shortcoming of these devices is the failure to provide uniform flow across the surface of each plate, at flow rates that offer economically-attractive permeate recovery. It is to these problems that the present invention is directed.

It is an object of this invention to provide an ultrafiltration apparatus that permits improved operation over a wide range of base liquid viscosities and especially an improved membrane support for an ultrafiltration apparatus.

This object is accomplished by means of an apparatus of the type indicated at the outset and being characterized according to the present invention in that said base liquid flow path is subdivided into a plurality of sealingly separated base liquid flow channels which are substantially mutually parallel and substantially equally dimensioned such that the fluid velocity of the base liquid is substantially uniform across the membrane, and that the base liquid flow channels are provided for channelling the flow of the base liquid, such that the base liquid flows substantially tangentially across the membrane.

It is an advantage of the invention that it provides a membrane support for an ultrafiltration apparatus that allows for uniform flow across the surface of the support.

Yet another advantage of the invention is the provision of an ultrafiltration apparatus that offers improved performance in reducing the turbulence associated with the transition from one stack subassembly to another such subassembly.

These and other objects are advantages in the present invention. In a preferred embodiment, an ultrafiltration apparatus includes a plurality of support panels arranged to form a stack. Each panel is generally flat and rectangular in shape, with two flat faces identically formed. Raised edges run around the periphery of one face of each panel to allow base liquid to flow between adjacent panels in the stack. Two apertures are formed near the periphery of each panel, preferably on opposite sides thereof. Panels are stacked with these apertures in alignments to form inlet and outlet ducts. Two types of rings are carried around the perimeter of each aperture, with rings of the same type disposed on one panel face. Distribution rings inlcude distribution apertures in the periphery of the ring to direct fluid flow in selected directions, and sealing rings have flat upper surfaces. Panels are stacked with the distribution rings of one panel bearing against the sealing rings of the adjacent panel, effecting a seal within the duct. A membrane is carried on each face of each panel, overlying the raised edges thereof, so that the clamping force exerted by such eges of adjacent panels forms a seal for the stack as a whole.

Longitudinal ribs, running from one aperture to the other and preferably spaced equidistantly, are formed in both faces of each panel, with longitudinal channels disposed on either side of each such rib. In the area between such channels is a plurality of transverse ribs, with transverse channels lying between adjacent such ribs. To provide optimum retenate flow, the top surface of these transverse ribs lies below the top surface of the longitudinal ribs, and to provide optimum permeate flow, the bottom of the transverse channels lies above the bottom of the longitudinal channels. A connecting channel, preferably at least equal in depth to the longitudinal channels, extends around the portion of the support member surface into which the longitudinal and transverse ribs are formed. A permeate extraction port, preferably located at the top of the support member, communicates with the connecting channel and permits collection of permeate; this duct is adapted for connection to fluid communication means, such as plastic tubing, for conveying the permeate to a collection means. Permeate collects in the transverse channels, flows to the longitudinal channels and thence to the connecting channel, and exits through the permeate extraction port.

Support panels are assembled into a stack, with end plates located on each end of the stack. A compressive force is applied to the stack through the end plates to retain panels in position and effect the respective seals. In a preferred form, the stack is subdivided into modules, each module including a number of panels, by providing turbulence reduction flanges within the stack. These units receive fluid from the outlet duct of a module and directs that fluid to the opposite side of the stack for introduction into the inlet duct of a succeeding module. It having been found that optimum performance occurs when fluid flow across a panel is directed from bottom to top (with respect to gravity), the inlet duct of each module is positioned at the bottom of the stack and the outlet duct is positioned at the top.

Rather than providing means for blocking the flow in each duct and forcing the fluid to flow in opposite directions in successive subassemblies, as taught in the art, the present invention employs turbulence reduction flanges to divide the stack into subassemblies. These components direct fluid flow from the top of one subassembly to the bottom of the succeeding subassembly, providing bottom-to-top fluid flow throughout the apparatus. Such flow produces improved performance by reducing the turbulence in the base liquid, as well as improving permeate delivery by insuring that the permeate extraction port always is located at areas of lowest pressure on the panel. Also, this design eliminates uneven flow due to entrapped air in the system.

The invention is further explained with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

  • FIGURE 1 is a pictorial showing an embodiment of the membrane support of the present invention;
  • FIGURE 2 is a detail side view taken along plane II-II of Fig.1;
  • FIGURE 3 is a detail cross-sectional side view taken along plane III-III of Fig. 1;
  • FIGURE 4 is a pictorial showing the area IV of Fig. 2;
  • FIGURES 5(a) and (b) are pictorials depicting the distribution ring and sealing ring of the embodiment shown in Fig. 1;
  • FIGURE 6 is a schematic side view of the ultrafiltration apparatus of the invention.

This invention generally includes a plurality of panels, each carrying two semi-permeable membranes, arranged in a stack. Flow passages exist between the membranes carried by adjacent panels. The stack is subdivided into a number of modules, each containing a number of panels. A base liquid is introduced into the first module, flows in parallel across the panels of that module, and then flows to succeeding modules, where the parallel flow pattern is repeated. Between modules, the liquid flows through a turbulence reducing flange that dissipates turbulence to increase permeate delivery. Understanding of the invention will be facilitated by first considering the individual panels in detail, and then considering the apparatus as a whole.

Fig. 1 shows a support panel 10 of the present invention. As seen, the panel is generally flat and rectangular in form, with two faces 12, 14. Discussion herein will focus on the face shown, but it should be understood that the two faces are identical, except as specifically noted. The panel preferably is formed of a molded plastic material, as will be understood by those in the art. For use in the antibiotic industry, where freedom from possible contamination is important, it is preferred to employ a polysulfone plastic, formed into a single-piece plate. The panel shape is not critical, except as it affects the flow pattern, as discussed below. In the embodiment shown, the panel dimensions are about 53 cm by about 38 cm (21 inches by about 15 inches). A raised edge 13 runs around the perimeter of one panel face, this being the only point of dissimilarity between the faces. Preferably, this edge includes two ridges, each having a rounded upper surface. The function of these ridges is explained below.

Two apertures 16 are formed in the periphery of the panel, preferably centered on the panel's long axis. To assure optimum flow in preselected directions, as discussed below, it is preferred to form these apertures as flattened ovals, with the flat side oriented toward the center of the panel. The size of the apertures is chosen consistent with the hydraulic requirements of the overall design.

Two rings, shown in Figs. 5(a) and (b), are carried in each aperture, one at each face. A distribution ring 18 (Fig.5(a)) includes a series of distribution ports 26 defined by raised teeth 25 formed in the perimeter of the ring, as will be discussed in more detail below. A sealing ring 19 (Fig. 5(b)) has a substantially flat upper surface 24. One ring of each type is carried in each aperture, disposed at opposite ends thereof, arranged so that rings of the same type are carried on the same face of a panel. Both types are fabricated from relatively soft material, such as polypropylene plastic, and the combined thickness of both rings is approximately equal to the distance between the surfaces of adjacent apertures to provide a sealing function, as discussed below. Any suitable mounting means can be employed, but it has been found effective to provide mounting recesses 20 around the perimeter of the aperture, to be engaged by lugs (not shown) projecting from the ring.

Those in the art will understand that other ring designs could be used to provide functions identical to the means preferred here. For example, both rings could have identical teeth, similar to the teeth 25, rather than have one ring with such teeth. It has been found that the chosen design provides the best performance, combined with ease of manufacture.

The structure of a panel surface can be seen in the various views of Figs. 1, 2, 3, and 4. Longitudinal ribs 28 extend between the apertures, pairs of such ribs defining flow channels 30. These channels are mutually parallel, of equal dimensions, and the number of such channels is chosen to provide uniform flow across the face of the panel, as would be appreciated by those skilled in the art. The embodiment depicted in Fig. 1 has a total of 18 channels and 16 longitudinal ribs, the outermost channels not having ribs at the outer periphery, that number of channels having proved effective to achieve such uniform flow. Two longitudinal channels 32 lie on either side of each longitudinal rib. The top surfaces of the longitudinal ribs should be relatively flat and slightly below the top surface of the raised edge 13.

Between the longitudinal ribs and channels is a series of transverse ribs 34 and channels 36, lying generally at right angles to the longitudinal ribs and channels. As seen more clearly in Fig. 2, the tops of the transverse ribs 34 are slightly below the tops of the longitudinal ribs 28, and the bottoms of the transverse channels 36 lies above that of the longitudinal channels 32. The relative depths of the transverse and longitudinal channels is not critical, but it has been found that the arrangement shown is effective in obtaining the desired flow pattern, as will be discussed in more detail below.

Other combinations of ribs and channels could be substituted for those discussed above. For example, a single longitudinal channel could be located between each pair of longitudinal ribs. Or, one could dispense with the transverse ribs and channels by providing a series of intermediate longitudinal ribs between the longitudinal ribs discussed, these intermediate ribs having tops at a lower level than those of the primary longitudinal ribs. Alternatively, one could utilize an internal permeate drainage system, as is known in the art, rather than the permeate flow system described above. Such systems carry significant disadvantages, however, such as a tendency to leak (most serious in food and antibiotic applications), and a limitation on the permeate flow rate. In addition, such plates are more difficult to manufacture, and hence more costly, than single-piece designs.

A connecting channel 37 encircles the portion of the face into which the ribs and channels are formed. This channel has a depth preferably at least equal to that of the longitudinal channels, and it intersects each longitudinal channel to receive fluid flow from same. Permeate extraction port 39 intersects the connecting channel at a convenient point, and provides a fluid flow path through the side of the panel. As shown, this duct projects outward from the side of the panel, for connection with a means for collecting permeate, such as plastic tubing. Other collection means would require alternate duct structures, as would be clear to those in the art.

Mounting lugs 40 project outward from the side of the panel and adapt the panel for mounting on a suitable carrier, such as a rack. Those in the art will understand methods for adapting the panel to other mounting arrangements that might be desireable.

Operation of a single panel is illustrated in Fig. 3. The panel is prepared for operation by placing a semi-permeable membrane 38 upon the panel face. Choice of a suitable membrane material depends upon the specific application, as is well-known to those in the art. Next, rings are inserted into the apertures, with distribution rings 18 being employed at one panel face and sealing rings 19 on the opposite face. It should be noted that Fig. 3 depicts slight spaces between the rings, panel and membrane; these gaps are present for clarity, as the components in fact come into intimate contact.

The membrane and panel cooperate to separate the base fluid into two fractions. Fluid flows through the distribution ports 26 and into the gap between the panels, following the path of arrow A, in contact with the membrane surface. As it does so, permeate penetrates the membrane and is collected and removed. The distribution ports are disposed in relation to the flow channels 30, and direct fluid toward those portions of the membrane overlying those channels. Also, the longitudinal ribs 28 of adjacent panels bear against one another (as discussed in connection with the overall operation of the apparatus, below), confining retenate flow within the confines of the base liquid flow channels. Because these channels are relatively narrow, fluid velocity is relatively uniform across each channel, and hence across the entire face of the panel. Fluid pressure forces the membrane against the transverse ribs 34; the tops of the transverse ribs are lower than those of the longitudinal ribs, and thus the membrane is urged against their respective top surfaces and the sides of the longitudinal ribs.

Permeate flows through the membrane to collect in transverse channels 36. It should be noted that these channels (and the longitudinal channels 32) are below the level of the membrane, which is supported by the longitudinal and transverse ribs. It has been found that provision of such channels, permitting the permeate to flow between the panel and the bottom surface of the membrane, without making contact with the membrane, results in a relatively free permeate flow and a higher permeate flow rate (or flux). From the transverse channels, permeate flows to the longitudinal channels 32 and thence to the connecting channel 37, which receives the permeate from all of the longitudinal channels. Permeate extraction port 39, in fluid communication with the connecting channel, provides an exit point to conduct the permeate to suitable collection means (not shown).

Turning to a consideration of the device as a whole, the ultrafiltration apparatus is assembled by stacking panels, with apertures 16 in alignment, as seen in Fig. 6. The alignment of apertures results in the formation of two ducts within the stack.

Panels are arranged with raised edges 13 (which lie only on one face of each panel) extending in the same direction, and each such edge is brought into contact with the corresponding flat surface on the opposite face of the adjacent panel, clamping the outer portions of the membranes to form an outer seal for the stack. Also, the distribution rings 18 of one panel make contact with the top surfaces 24 of sealing rings 19 of the adjacent panel, sealing the ducts formed within the stack. Additionally, longitudinal ribs 28 on both faces of each panel make contact, further clamping the membranes and sealing the base liquid flow paths 30 from one another. End plates 41 are placed at either end of the stack, as seen in Fig. 6. These plates should be sufficiently durable to withstand the compressive force necessary to effect stack sealing, and also should be sized to bear completely against an entire panel.

The stack may be supported in any suitable manner known to the art. Preferably, a rack (not shown) is provided, indluding means (not shown) for receiving mounting lugs 40, or whatever mounting means is chosen. Also, those in the art will understand that means for applying a compressive force to the stack must be provided, such as readily-available hydraulic press means.

As is known in the art, it is desirable to subdivide the stack into modules. For this purpose, turbulence reduction flanges 46 are inserted into the stack at appropriate intervals. As discussed above, the art teaches the use of a blocking means to accomplish this purpose, resulting in a flow pattern in which fluid travels in opposite directions in successive modules. It has been found, however, that optimum performance is achieved by causing fluid to flow across a membrane in an upward direction (as used herein, terms such as "top", "bottom", "up" and "down" are used with respect to the direction of gravity). Therefore, the stack according to the present invention is arranged with panels oriented vertically, and with the ducts located at the top and bottom of the stack. The ducts located at the bottom of the stack are inlet ducts 48 and those at the top of the stack are outlet ducts 50.

The relatively rough surface of the duct interior (resulting from stacking panels) inherently produces turbulence, a condition exacerbated by the abrupt change in flow direction at the end of the duct. Further, turbulence increases from duct to duct, so that, for example, the fluid within the fourth module of a stack experiences significantly greater turbulence than the fluid within the first module. Increased turbulence has been observed to lead to early plugging of panel channels and to delamination of membrane material, particularly in modules located toward the end of a stack. Therefore, measures to reduce turbulence would serve to increase performance. As shown in Fig. 6, the turbulence reduction flange includes a conduit 42 formed through the divider, which accepts the output from an outlet duct 50 and conducts fluid to the inlet duct 48 of the succeeding module. This conduit is shaped to match the profile of the panel apertures, with smooth sides. In accordance with general principles of fluid dynamics, provision of such a smooth passageway allows turbulence to dissipate between modules. Preferably, the turbulence reduction flange is formed as a two-piece unit, with the inner surfaces molded to produce the conduit. This unit could be joined permanently, or (as is preferred), one of the units could be provided raised edges similar to those of the panels, for producing a seal between the unit halves. The choice of materials for the flange can be made by those in the art; stainless steel or polysulfone plastic would be most acceptable for food or antibiotic applications.

Operation of the ultrafiltration apparatus proceeds as follows. For purposes of illustration, Fig. 6 depicts a stack comprising two modules, A and B, inlcluding three plates 12 in each module. Liquid, which can be, for example, a fermentation broth employed in the production of antibiotics, is introduced into the apparatus through an inlet duct 52, located in the leftmost end plate 41 shown in Fig. 6, by appropriate means (not shown), at a pressure of about 105 N/cm² (150 psi). This liquid flows into inlet duct 48 of module A, and thence through the distribution ports 26 as discussed above, being directed thereby into the gap 44 between adjacent panels 12, as shown by arrows a. Of course, such flow occurs on each panel in the module, in parallel. The flow pattern occurring on individual panels was discussed above.

Fluid then collects in module A outlet duct 50a and flows through the turbulence reduction flange conduit 42 to the inlet duct 48b of module B, noted by arrows c. The parallel flow pattern is repeated, with fluid proceeding in the gaps between panels, following the paths of arrows d. Outlet duct 50b receives this flow, which exits the apparatus through duct 54 in the rightmost end plate of Fig. 6, shown by arrows e.

It is important to note that the flow pattern of the present apparatus differs substantially from prior art apparatus in that flow occurs in the same direction, from bottom to top, in each module. In this configuration, the permeate extraction port is always located at the low pressure (outlet) end of the panel, promoting improved flow of permeate from the system. In the prior art devices discussed above, of course, half of such ports are located at low pressure areas and half at high pressure areas. Not only does the present invention provide increased flow, but also this arrangement eliminates "dead zones" that occur due to air entrapped on the permeate side of the membrane.

Also, it should be noted that one could divide the stack into panels oft two types - one having longitudinal ribs twice the height of those disclosed herein, and the other having a permeate drainage system, such as the transverse ribs, transverse channels, and longitudinal channels disclosed herein. Although such means would be within the scope of the present invention, it is prefereable to employ a single type of plate.

It should also be understood that the apparatus shown in Fig. 6 is configured for illustrative purposes only. Those in the art will understand the requirement for more or fewer modules, or for differing numbers of panels within a module, based upon the application and its requirements.

Operational testing of an ultrafiltration apparatus constructed according to the present invention confirms that the advantages outlined herein do in fact occur in practice. A device according to the invention was compared to a unit constructed alongs the lines of U.S. Patent No. 3,872,015, to Madsen, as discussed above. Equipment of this type is manufactured by De Danske Sukkerfabriker, a Danish corporation. The base liquid employed was penicillin broth, and two comparative outputs were recorded: flux, in gallons of permeate per square foot of membrane material per day (GFD), and the maximum concentration ratio of the retenate (the ratio of intial base liquid volume to the volume of fluid remaining after processing). The two apparatus contained an identical number of plates, with the following results: Flux (GFD) Maximum Concentration Ratio /Present Invention 52 2.8 x DDS device 40 2.0 x % difference 30% 40%

Clearly, this invention offers substantial benefits over the prior art.

The apparatus shown in Fig. 6 is configured for illustrative purposes only. Those in the art will understand the requirement for more or fewer modules, and for differing numbers of panels in each module, and they will be able to match such requirements to specific applications.


Anspruch[de]
  1. Vorrichtung zum Auftrennen einer Basisflüssigkeit in eine Permeatfraktion (durchzulassender Anteil) und eine Retentatfraktion zurückzuhaltender Anteil), umfassend:

    eine semipermeable Membran (38) zum Auftrennen der Basisflüssigkeit in die Fraktionen;

    einen Strömungspfad für die Basisflüssigkeit auf einer ersten Seite der Membran (38), und

    Strömungskanaleinrichtungen (32, 36, 37) für das Permeat, die auf der gegenüberliegenden Seite der Membran (38) angeordnet sind und an einem Träger (10) zum Tragen der Membran (38) derart vorgesehen sind, daß ein Teil der Basisflüssigkeit, der in den Strömungspfad für die Basisflüssigkeit eintritt und die Permeatfraktion enthält, durch die Membran (38) und in die Kanaleinrichtungen (32, 36, 37) für das Permeat fließt,

    wobei diese Vorrichtung dadurch gekennzeichnet ist, daß der Strömungspfad für die Basisflüssigkeit in mehrere dichtend voneinander getrennte Strömungskanäle (30) für die Basisflüssigkeit unterteilt ist, die im wesentlichen parallel zueiander verlaufen und im wesentlichen gleich dimensioniert sind, derart, daß die Fluidgeschwindigkeit der Basisflüssigkeit über der Membran (38) im wesentlichen gleichmäßig ist und daß die Strömungskanäle (30) für die Basisflüssigkeit zum Kanalisieren der Strömung der Basisflüssigkeit derart vorgesehen sind, daß die Basisflüssigkeit im wesentlichen tangential über die Membran (38) fließt.
  2. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, bei der der Permeatströmungskanal mehrere Permeatströmungskanäle umfaßt.
  3. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, bei der der Permeatströmungskanal in dem Träger ausgebildet ist, wobei der Träger eine Platte umfaßt, die eine Stützfläche aufweist, welche geeignet ist, darauf die Membran aufzunehmen.
  4. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, bei der der Träger erste Rippen umfaßt, die in mindestens einer ersten Richtung orientiert sind.
  5. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 4, welche ferner zweite Rippen umfaßt, die zwischen den ersten Rippen angeordnet sind und die in mindestens einer zweiten Richtung orientiert sind.
  6. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 4, bei der die Membran deformierbar ist und bei der die ersten Rippen die Membran deformieren, um die Strömungskanäle für die Basisflüssigkeit zu bilden.
  7. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 5, bei der die Membran deformierbar ist und bei der die ersten Rippen und die zweiten Rippen die Membran deformieren, um die Strömungskanäle für die Basisflüssigkeit zu bilden.
  8. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 4, bei der der Permeatströmungskanal mehrere Permeatströmungskanäle umfaßt und bei der die ersten Rippen die Permeatströmungskanäle definieren.
  9. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 8, bei der die ersten Rippen die Permeatströmungskanäle definieren und sich über die Länge der Strömungskanäle erstrecken.
  10. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 5, bei der die zweiten Rippen dazwischen zweite Kanäle definieren und die ferner mindestens eine Öffnung umfaßt, die in Fluidverbindung mit den Permeatströmungskanälen steht, um die Permeatfraktion ablaufen zu lassen.
  11. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 5, bei der die zweiten Rippen gegenüber dem Niveau der ersten Rippen zurückgesetzt sind.
  12. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 5, bei der die ersten Rippen Längsrippen umfassen, welche dazwischen mindestens einen Längskanal definieren, wobei die zweiten Rippen Querrippen umfassen, die im wesentlichen rechtwinklig zu dem Längskanal und den Rippen angeordnet sind.
  13. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, bei der die Permeat- und die Retentatfraktion in Abhängigkeit vom Molekulargewicht ihrer Bestandteile getrennt werden.
  14. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, bei der der Träger eine Stützfläche aufweist, die geeignet ist, darauf die Membran aufzunehmen, wobei die Stützfläche eine erste und eine zweite Öffnung umfaßt, die am Umfang der Stützfläche an gegenüberliegenden Enden derselben ausgebildet sind, und wobei die Strömungskanäle für die Basisflüssigkeit in Fluidverbindung mit der ersten und der zweiten Öffnung stehen und zwischen diesen liegen.
  15. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 14, bei der mehrere der Träger in einem Stapel vorgesehen sind, wobei jeder Träger eine Stützfläche mit einer darauf befindlichen Membran aufweist und jede Trägerstützfläche die erste und die zweite Öffnung umfaßt, wobei die Öffnungen für eine Fluidverbindung zwischen benachbarten Trägern sorgen.
  16. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 14, welche ferner eine Dichtung umfaßt, die zumindest teilweise um die erste und die zweite Öffnung herum vorgesehen ist, um eine Fluidverbindung zwischen den Strömungskanälen für die Basisflüssigkeit und den Öffnungen zu schaffen, wobei die Dichtungen eine fluiddichte Abdichtung zwischen dem Träger und der Membran bewirken.
  17. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 15, welche ferner eine Dichtung umfaßt, die zumindest teilweise um die erste und die zweite Öffnung herum angeordnet ist, um eine Fluidverbindung zwischen den Strömungskanälen für die Basisflüssigkeit und den Öffnungen zu schaffen, wobei die Dichtungen eine fluiddichte Abdichtung zwischen jedem Träger und der darauf angeordneten Membran bewirken.
  18. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 17, bei der die Dichtung ferner eine fluiddichte Abdichtung zwischen benachbarten Trägern bewirkt.
  19. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 17, bei der die Dichtung zwei Teile umfaßt: einen ersten Teil, der eine Verteilungsdichtung umfaßt, die auf einer ersten Fläche jedes Trägers zumindest teilweise rund um den Umfang einer Öffnung angeordnet ist, um für eine Fluidverbindung zwischen der Öffnung und den Strömungskanälen für die Basisflüssigkeit zu sorgen und um eine fluiddichte Abdichtung zwischen dem Träger und der auf dem Träger angeordneten Membran zu bewirken, sowie einen zweiten Teil, der ein Dichtungselement umfaßt, welches auf einer Stützfläche eines benachbarten Trägers mindestens teilweise rund um den Umfang der Öffnung angeordnet ist, um eine fluddichte Abdichtung zwischen der Membran auf dem benachbarten Träger und dem benachbarten Träger zu bewirken, auf dem die Membran abgestützt ist.
  20. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 19, bei der die Verteilungsdichtung und das Dichtungselement jeweils ringförmige Elemente umfassen.
  21. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 20, bei der die Verteilungsdichtung mindestens eine Verteileröffnung zum Schaffen einer Fluidverbindung zwischen der Öffnung und den Strömungskanälen für die Basisflüssigkeit aufweist.
  22. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 14 oder 15, bei der die erste und die zweite Öffnung sich im wesentlichen über die gesamte von den Strömungskanälen für die Basisflüssigkeit eingenommene Breite erstrecken.
  23. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 22, bei der die erste Öffnung und die zweite Öffnung eine im wesentlichen flache Seite haben, die sich in Richtung auf die Mitte des Trägers erstreckt.
Anspruch[en]
  1. Apparatus for separating a base liquid into a permeate fraction and a retentate fraction comprising:

    a semi-permeable membrane (38) for separating the base liquid into the fractions;

    a base liquid flow path disposed on a first side of said membrane (38), and

    permeate flow channel means (32, 36, 37) disposed on the opposite second side of the membrane (38) and being provided on a support (10) for carrying said membrane (38), such that a portion of the base liquid entering said base liquid flow path and comprising said permeate fraction flows through the membrane (38) and into said permeate flow channel means (32, 36, 37),

    said apparatus being characterized in that said base liquid flow path is subdivided into a plurality of sealingly separated base liquid flow channels (30) which are substantially mutually parallel and substantially equally dimensioned such that the fluid velocity of the base liquid is substantially uniform across the membrane (38), and that the base liquid flow channels (30) are provided for channelling the flow of the base liquid, such that the base liquid flows substantially tangentially across the membrane (38).
  2. The apparatus recited in claim 1, wherein the permeate flow channel comprises a plurality of permeate flow channels.
  3. The apparatus recited in claim 1, wherein the permeate flow channel is formed in the support, the support comprising a plate having a support face adapted for receiving the membrane thereon.
  4. The apparatus recited in claim 1, wherein the support comprises first ribs oriented in at least one first direction.
  5. The apparatus recited in claim 4, further comprising second ribs disposed between the first ribs oriented in at least one second direction.
  6. The apparatus recited in claim 4, wherein the membrane is deformable and said first ribs deform said membrane to form said base liquid flow channels.
  7. The apparatus recited in claim 5, wherein said membrane is deformable and said first ribs and second ribs deform said membrane to form said base liquid flow channels.
  8. The apparatus recited in claim 4, wherein the permeate flow channel comprises a plurality of permeate flow channels and the first ribs define the permeate flow channels.
  9. The apparatus recited in claim 8, wherein the first ribs define the permeate flow channels and extend the length of the flow channels.
  10. The apparatus recited in claim 5, wherein the second ribs define second channels therebetween and further comprising at least one port in fluid communication with the permeate flow channels for draining the permeate fraction.
  11. The apparatus recited in claim 5, wherein the second ribs are recessed from the level of the first ribs.
  12. The apparatus recited in claim 5, wherein the first ribs comprise longitudinal ribs defining at least one longitudinal channel therebetween, the second ribs comprising transverse ribs, disposed generally at right angles to the longitudinal channel and ribs.
  13. The apparatus recited in claim 1, wherein said permeate and retentate fractions are separated based upon the molecular weight of the constituents thereof.
  14. The apparatus recited in claim 1, wherein said support has a support face adapted for receiving the membrane thereon, said support face including first and second apertures formed in the periphery thereof at opposite ends thereof, said base liquid flow channels being in fluid communication between said first and second apertures.
  15. The apparatus recited in claim 14, wherein a plurality of said supports are provided in a stack, each support having a support face having a membrane thereon, and each support face including said first and second apertures, the apertures providing fluid communication between adjacent ones of said supports.
  16. The apparatus recited in claim 14, further including a seal disposed at least in part about said first and second apertures, for providing fluid communication between said base liquid flow channels and said apertures, said seal effecting a fluid tight seal between the support and said membrane.
  17. The apparatus recited in claim 15, further including a seal disposed at least in part about said first and second apertures, for providing fluid communication between said base liquid flow channels and said apertures, said seal effecting a fluid tight seal between each support and the membrane disposed thereon.
  18. The apparatus recited in claim 17, further wherein said seal effects a fluid tight seal between adjacent ones of said supports.
  19. The apparatus recited in claim 17, wherein said seal includes two parts, a first part comprising a distribution seal disposed on a first face of each support at least in part around the periphery of an aperture for providing fluid communication between the aperture and the base liquid flow channels and for effecting a fluid tight seal between the support and the membrane disposed on the support and a second part comprising a sealing member disposed on a support face of an adjacent support at least in part around the periphery of the aperture for effecting a fluid tight seal between the membrane on the adjacent support and the adjacent support on which the membrane is supported.
  20. The apparatus recited in claim 19, wherein said distribution seal and said sealing member each comprise ring-shaped members.
  21. The apparatus recited in claim 20, wherein said distribution seal includes at least one distribution port for providing fluid communication between the aperture and the base liquid flow channels.
  22. The apparatus recited in claim 14 or 15, wherein said first and second apertures extend substantially the combined width of said base liquid flow channels.
  23. The apparatus recited in claim 22, wherein said first and second apertures have a substantially flat side extending toward the center of the support.
Anspruch[fr]
  1. Appareil pour la séparation d'un liquide de base en une fraction de perméat et une fraction de rétentat, comprenant:

       une membrane semi-perméable (38) pour séparer le liquide de base en les fractions;

       un chemin d'écoulement du liquide de base disposé sur un premier côté de ladite membrane (38); et

       un moyen formant canal d'écoulement du perméat (32, 36, 37) disposé sur le second côté opposé de la membrane (38) et étant prévu sur un support (10) pour porter ladite membrane (38), de telle sorte qu'une portion du liquide de base entrant dans ledit chemin d'écoulement du liquide de base et comprenant ladite fraction de perméat s'écoule à travers la membrane (38) et dans ledit moyen formant canal d'écoulement du perméat (32,36,37),

       ledit appareil étant caractérisé en ce que ledit chemin d'écoulement du liquide de base est divisé en une pluralité de canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base (30) séparés de manière étanche qui sont sensiblement parallèles entre eux et sensiblement dimensionnés de façon égale, de telle sorte que la vitesse de fluide du liquide de base est sensiblement uniforme à travers la membrane (38), et que les canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base (30) sont prévus pour canaliser l'écoulement du liquide de base, de telle sorte que le liquide de base s'écoule sensiblement tangentiellement, à travers la membrane (38).
  2. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le canal d'écoulement du perméat comprend une pluralité de canaux d'écoulement du perméat.
  3. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le canal d'écoulement du perméat est formé dans le support, le support comprenant une plaque ayant une face de support adaptée pour recevoir la membrane sur son dessus.
  4. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le support comprend des premières nervures orientées selon au moins une première direction.
  5. Appareil selon la revendication 4, comprenant en outre des secondes nervures, disposées entre les premières nervures, orientées selon au moins une seconde direction.
  6. Appareil selon la revendication 4, dans lequel la membrane est déformable et lesdites premières nervures déforment ladite membrane pour former lesdits canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base.
  7. Appareil selon la revendication 5, dans lequel ladite membrane est déformable et lesdites premières nervures et secondes nervures déforment ladite membrane pour former lesdits canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base.
  8. Appareil selon la revendication 4, dans lequel le canal d'écoulement du perméat comprend une pluralité de canaux d'écoulement du perméat et les premières nervures définissent les canaux d'écoulement du perméat.
  9. Appareil selon la revendication 8, dans lequel les premières nervures définissent les canaux d'écoulement du perméat et augmentent la longueur des canaux d'écoulement.
  10. Appareil selon la revendication 5, dans lequel les secondes nervures définissent entre elles des seconds canaux et comprenant en outre au moins un orifice en communication par fluide avec les canaux d'écoulement du perméat, pour drainer la fraction de perméat.
  11. Appareil selon la revendication 5, dans lequel les secondes nervures sont en retrait par rapport au niveau des premières nervures.
  12. Appareil selon la revendication 5, dans lequel les premières nervures comprennent des nervures longitudinales définissant, entre elles, au moins un canal longitudinal, les secondes nervures comprenant des nervures transversales, disposées généralement à angle droit par rapport au canal longitudinal et aux nervures longitudinales.
  13. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel lesdites fractions de perméat et de rétentat sont séparées selon le poids moléculaire de leurs constituants.
  14. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit support possède une face de support adaptée pour recevoir la membrane sur son dessus, ladite face de support incluant des première et seconde ouvertures formées dans sa périphérie, à ses extrémités opposées, lesdits canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base étant en communication par fluide entre lesdites première et seconde ouvertures.
  15. Appareil selon la revendication 14, dans lequel une pluralité desdits supports est prévue dans a empilage, chaque support possédant une face de support ayant une membrane sur son dessus, et chaque face de support incluant lesdites première et seconde ouvertures, les ouvertures permettant une communication par fluide entre ceux desdits supports qui sont adjacents.
  16. Appareil selon la revendication 14, possédant en outre un dispositif d'étanchéité disposé au moins en partie autour desdites première et seconde ouvertures, pour permettre une communication par fluide entre lesdits canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base et lesdites ouvertures, ledit dispositif d'étanchéité réalisant un joint étanche aux fluides entre le support et ladite membrane.
  17. Appareil selon la revendication 15, possédant en outre un dispositif d'étanchéité disposé au moins en partie autour desdites première et seconde ouvertures, pour permettre une communication par fluide entre lesdits canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base et lesdites ouvertures, ledit dispositif d'étanchéité réalisant un joint étanche aux fluides entre chaque support et la membrane disposée sur son dessus.
  18. Appareil selon la revendication 17, dans lequel en outre ledit dispositif d'étanchéité réalise un joint étanche aux fluides entre ceux desdits supports qui sont adjacents.
  19. Appareil selon la revendication 17, dans lequel ledit dispositif d'étanchéité possède deux parties une première partie comprenant un dispositif d'étanchéité de distribution, disposé sur une première face de chaque support, au moins en partie autour de la périphérie d'une ouverture, pour permettre une communication par fluide entre l'ouverture et les canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base et pour réaliser un joint étanche aux fluides entre le support et la membrane disposée sur le support, et une seconde partie comprenant un élément d'étanchéité disposé sur une face de support d'un support adjacent, au moins en partie autour de la périphérie de l'ouverture, pour réaliser un joint étanche aux fluides entre la membrane sur le support adjacent et le support adjacent sur lequel la membrane est supportée.
  20. Appareil selon la revendication 19, dans lequel ledit dispositif d'étanchéité de distribution et ledit élément d'étanchéité comprennent chacun des éléments ayant la forme d'un anneau.
  21. Appareil selon la revendication 20, dans lequel ledit dispositif d'étanchéité de distribution comporte au moins un orifice de distribution pour permettre une communication par fluide entre l'ouverture et les canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base.
  22. Appareil selon la revendication 14 ou 15, dans lequel lesdites première et seconde ouvertures allongent sensiblement la largeur combinée desdits canaux d'écoulement du liquide de base.
  23. Appareil selon la revendication 22, dans lequel lesdites première et seconde ouvertures possèdent un côté sensiblement plat s'étendant vers le centre du support.






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