Herbert Morawetz Distinguished Lecture: The Development of the Membrane Separation Industry

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Lecturer: Dr. Richard Baker, Membrane Technology and Research Inc., USA.

Title:  The Development of the Membrane Separation Industry

Refreshments: 10:30-10:45am

Lecture:  10:45-11:45am


It is now fifty years since the first commercial reverse osmosis plants were installed.  Prior to that membranes had only been used in a few laboratory applications. The total membrane market was then about 20 million dollars per year in today’s dollars. The current membrane industry is in the range of 10 billion dollars per year, and still growing. Membranes are now used to separate drinking water from the sea, nitrogen from air, contaminants from natural gas, bacteria from municipal water and to separate the protein components of blood. A series of new Unit Operations have been created. In this talk the development of this industry will be described from early research conducted at Imperial College and elsewhere in the 1950’s to the million square meter membrane plants being installed today and it will end with a hint of what the future may bring.


Dr. Baker received his PhD from Imperial College London in 1966, and from 1968-70 was a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Fred Eirich at Brooklyn Poly's Polymer Research Institute.  He currently serves as MTR’s Principal Scientist.  He founded the company in 1982, and served as President for 25 years. In that time, MTR became a leading membrane research, development, engineering, and production company, concentrating on the development of membranes and membrane systems for industrially and environmentally significant separations. He is currently leading MTR’s new development program for membrane-based biomass/biofuel ethanol separations.  Dr. Baker is the author of more than 100 papers and over 100 patents, all in the membrane area.  Three editions of his book, Membrane Technology and Applications, were published in 2000, 2004 and 2012.  He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Membrane Science and was previously on the editorial boards of The Journal of Controlled Release, Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, and Separation and Purification Technology. He served as editor of the NAMS quarterly newsletter for several years.  He is founder and past president of the International Controlled Release Society, and co-founder of the North American Membrane Society (NAMS).  In 2002, he was recipient of the first NAMS Alan S. Michaels Award for Innovation in Membrane Science and Technology.