a "Energy-efficient water purification" l'AWARD europeo per le Small and medium-sized enterprises

17/06/2014 2778

Assegnato l'AWARD europeo per la categoria Small and medium-sized enterprises a Peter Holme Jensen, Claus Hélix-Nielsen, Danielle Keller (Denmark) per un progetto su "Energy-efficient water purification"

  • Category: SMEs
  • Sector: Membrane technology
  • Company: Aquaporin
  • Patent number: EP1885477, EP1937395

Invention: Energy-efficient water purification

The high-tech electronics industry has developed an unquenchable thirst for “ultrapure” water (UPW), but conventional water filtration methods prove highly energy consuming and unsustainable. Modelled on naturally occurring water-purifying proteins, so-called aquaporins, the water filters invented by Danish inventor Holme Jensen and his team provide an energy-efficient method for supplying ultrapure water on an industrial scale.

The invention utilises the natural movement of water between individual cells in nature and the characteristics of the proteins facilitating this movement. The proteins, called aquaporins, allow for water to transfer between cell membranes, all the while blocking the passage of contaminants such as salts and minerals. The inventors incorporated this principle into a “biomembrane” technology.

Conventional water filtration methods channel contaminated water through a series of increasingly fine-pored filters at intense pressures; a highly energy-consuming process, further complicated by the potential of pores becoming clogged. Without the need for external and energy-intensive hydrostatic pressure, the invention uses the process of “forward osmosis” for transporting water molecules through a membrane featuring aquaporins integrated in a backing layer.

Societal benefit

An estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide have no access to clean drinking water. At the same time, industrial demand not just for clean but specifically ultrapure water (UPW) is steadily increasing. The Aquaporin filters are already providing an energy-efficient method for purifying water into UPW for industrial uses. In the next step, the technology can be applied to large-scale purification plants to desalinate seawater and purify industrial wastewater – a considerable contribution to global drinking water supplies.

Economic benefit


The Aquaporin membrane not only produces pure water – it produces ultrapure water for the semiconductor and photovoltaic industries, where even the tiniest particles could damage components in the nanometre range.

The global water purification market is currently estimated at EUR 271 billion, with an annual growth rate of 4-5%. A market share of 21-22%, or EUR 58 billion, is generated by the sale of equipment, technology and treatment chemicals; also including water treatment technology like Aquaporin’s biomembrane filters. In 2011, Aquaporin A/S partnered up with German company Membrana GmbH, one of the leading providers of microporous membranes for medical use worldwide, with the aim of integrating the Aquaporin technology.


Gli altri due finalisti erano:  

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About the award

Celebrating the spirit of invention

The driving force behind the innovation process is people - people with a passion for discovery. Without their inquisitive minds, their quest for new ideas and their creativity, there would be no inventive spirit and no progress. As one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind, the European Inventor Award pays tribute to the creativity of inventors the world over, who use their technical, scientific and intellectual skills to make a real contribution to technological progress and economic growth and so improve people's daily lives.

Launched by the EPO in 2006, the award gives inventors the recognition they deserve. And, like every competition, it acts as an incentive for other potential winners. It helps to protect ideas and encourage innovation.


About the trophy

Winners of the European Inventor Award are presented with a trophy in the shape of a sail. An enduring symbol of exploration and human ingenuity, the sail recalls how an inventive idea can propel humankind to uncharted shores. The trophy was conceived by German industrial designer Miriam Irle and is crafted with new materials every year, highlighting the ever-changing nature of innovation.


For 2014 the trophy has been elegantly fashioned by KPM – the Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin – which has been designing high-quality porcelain ornaments for over 250 years. Renowned the world over, the KPM sail will provide the winners with a memorable souvenir of the Award Ceremony in Germany’s capital.

TAG: European Inventor Award, DNA, MICROCHIP

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