Cates Receives Patent to Improve Water Treatment

July 8, 2019

Dr. Ezra Cates, an Assistant Professor in EEES, was recently awarded a patent entitled Materials and Methods for Reducing Biofouling in Water Treatment Membrane Systems.  Cates was one of five faculty members from The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences who received a patent in 2018.  Patent holders were honored at a ceremony on May 9, 2019 hosted by the Clemson University Research Foundation (CURF), which facilitates technology transfer at Clemson University.

Membranes are used more and more in the process of treating water.  Their use is advantageous because they can trap contaminants on one side of the membrane while only water is forced through and collected on the other side.  Unfortunately, the collection of particles on the inlet side of the membrane requires that higher and higher pressures be applied to force the water through, thereby increasing costs.  Microbes are among the particles that get filtered out and they can be especially detrimental because they produce a layer of slime that impedes water flow and allows the growing colony to resist cleaning procedures.  This type of clogging is referred to as “biofouling,” with microbes being the bio part of the fouling.  The invention by Cates seeks to solve the problem of biofouling by introducing luminescent materials into the existing membrane module components. These materials emit microbe-killing ultraviolet (UV) radiation when excited, and thus allow UV to be generated in confined spaces between membrane layers that are inaccessible to typical UV lamps. The materials are excited by X-rays, which may be applied externally such that they travel through the membrane module to initiate UV luminescence at the desired locations and prevent microbial colonization.

The patent number is 10,023,481 B2.  The patent itself may be found here.  Congratulations to Dr. Cates.