ChE Seminar – Paul Hollingsworth Lectureship in Engineering – “The Development of the Membrane Separation Industry” by Dr. Richard Baker (Membrane Technology and Research, Inc.)

Host: Dr. Benny Freeman; Paul Hollingsworth Lectureship in Engineering


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 I will describe the development of this industry from early research conducted at Imperial and elsewhere in the 1950’s to the million square meter membrane plants being installed to day. I will end with a hint of what the future may bring.


Dr. Richard Baker founded Membrane Technology and Research, Inc. (MTR) 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, was previously on the editorial boards of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, The Journal of Controlled Release and Separation and Purification Technology.  He served as editor of the NAMS quarterly newsletter for several years.  Dr. Baker 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.

Posted on: