What is an Ultrafiltration (UF) System?

Adverse climate change is the principal cause of the ever-increasing aridification. At present, over 1.42 billion people reside in regions suffering from adverse water shortages. In addition to deteriorating freshwater sources, the 21st century has recorded an astronomical increase in water contamination. This has denied over 785 million people across the world access to fresh potable water.

It is estimated that over 80% of the global domestic and industrial wastewater is disposed of into the environment without adequate treatment. Often, this waste finds its way into freshwater reservoirs thereby polluting rivers, freshwater lakes, streams, and other freshwater sources. The consequence has been an upsurge in mortalities resulting from waterborne diseases, especially in children.

Preservation of current freshwater reservoirs has to be prioritized if we are to win the fight against water shortage. This can be achieved by effectively treating wastewater prior to disposal and exploiting alternatives to mitigate the over-exploitation of water sources. Water filtration technologies like ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis offer hope that freshwater vulnerability might be a thing of the past in the near future.

As of 2019, the international UF systems market was approximately $5.3 billion. The adoption of water treatment technologies is projected to grow immensely in the coming years. NEWater has provided thousands of water treatment systems including ultrafiltration systems in the past and by incorporating modern technology, we expect to manufacture systems that are more advanced in the future.

Figure 1 Ultrafiltration system.

Ultrafiltration (UF) systems.

Ultrafiltration systems are water treatment units driven by pressure to alienate suspended solids and solutes with a high molecular weight through perforated membranes. The invention of ultrafiltration as a separation mechanism dates back to 1907 and since then, the technology has been subjected to incredible advancements. At the start of the 1960s, ultrafiltration was adopted by various industries thanks to the development of thin-film composite (TFC) UF membranes.

Presently, ultrafiltration is a fundamental industrial, commercial and domestic water treatment technology revered by many for its effectiveness and cost-efficiency. Ultrafiltration systems guarantee users higher impurity scores, especially when targeting organic molecules, pathogens, and viruses. Their salt rejection rate is decent but not as high as reverse osmosis systems.

Additionally, UF systems are versatile in their operation hence their application in treating brackish water, wastewater, groundwater, and seawater. They are viable for use as stand-alone systems but can also be deployed as accompanying systems to other plants like reverse osmosis. UF systems are commonly used to pretreat feed water with a high silt density for RO systems.

The Working Principle of Ultrafiltration Systems.

Ultrafiltration systems are named after the process they utilize to treat water (ultrafiltration). Ultrafiltration is a pressure-driven water treatment process that alienates high-molecular constituents, bacteria, and viruses from the water via semi-permeable membranes.

Ultrafiltration membranes have perforations (often measuring 0.1-0.01 microns) which deny molecules with larger measurements passage to the permeate side. The rejected constituents are left on the retentate side while the treated water and elements with a low molecular weight like minerals pass to the permeate side.

The treatment of water via ultrafiltration is technically a physical process based on size alienation. The filtration process is either crossflow or direct flow filtration. Below is a brief summary of crossflow and direct flow ultrafiltration processes.

Crossflow filtration.

Crossflow filtration can also be addressed as tangential filtration. It is characterized by the inlet water flowing along the membrane’s surface resulting in the generation of two streams, the filtrate/permeate and the retentate which contains the rejected molecules. By constantly filtering water using tangential filtration, you can mitigate the accumulation of solids on the membrane’s surface thereby averting membrane clogging. Crossflow filtration is viable for the following types of ultrafiltration membranes:

  • Spiral wound UF membranes.
  • Hollow fiber UF filters.
  • Tubular UF membranes.

 Figure 2 Cross-flow UF filtration.

Direct flow UF filtration.

This is also commonly referred to as dead-end UF filtration whereby pressure is exerted to force the feed water through the UF membrane pores. Unlike crossflow filtration, dead-end filtration operates semi-continuously. This facilitates regular unclogging/cleaning of the ultrafiltration membranes. Direct flow filtration is ideal for treating lowly concentrated feed water (particulates).

Impurities removed by Ultrafiltration systems.

Ultrafiltration systems are seen as major upgrades to microfiltration systems due to their slightly small-sized-membrane perforations (0.1 to 0.01 microns). This permits them to eradicate more suspended solids and microorganisms compared to MF systems. The only constituents granted passage measure less than 20 nm. Underneath is a list of objectionable contaminants separated from freshwater by ultrafiltration skids.

●Viruses and bacteria.
●Silt and silica.

However, ultrafiltration systems are not effective in eradicating low molecular weight pollutants like minerals and dissolved salts. Feedwater with high concentrations of dissolved solids necessitates the use of reverse osmosis systems.

Advantages of Ultrafiltration Systems.

Ultrafiltration systems have gained prominence in diverse sectors thanks to their high impurity rejection rates, cost-efficiency, and versatility. Primarily, ultrafiltration systems are deployed to generate fresh potable water by treating low-quality raw water unsuitable for use. This can be achieved using various water treatment processes and systems but ultrafiltration systems stand out because of their unique specifications. Below we discuss the chief advantages of utilizing ultrafiltration water treatment systems.

Figure 3 Advantages of ultrafiltration systems.

Consistently high-quality potable water.

The deployment of an ultrafiltration system is chiefly intended to remove suspended solids and microbes. Irrespective of the feed water concentration and composition, ultrafiltration systems guarantee a high-grade filtrate devoid of suspended molecules with a molecular weight surpassing 20nm.

Consequently, ultrafiltration is utilized in wastewater treatment, salt-water desalination, and groundwater filtration. UF systems are ideal upgrades to microfiltration systems owing to their small-sized pores. With a competent ultrafiltration skid, you are guaranteed impurity removal rates ranging from (90-99%).

Does not necessitate the use of chemicals.

Ultrafiltration systems only necessitate the use of chemicals when cleaning the UF membranes and other components. The operation of ultrafiltration processes without the addition of chemicals ensures that there is no alteration to the water’s taste or odor. Additionally, it lessens the operational costs of ultrafiltration systems. The process of ultrafiltration is strictly a physical process reliant on pressure and semi-permeable membranes.

Diverse capacity ranges.

Different entities demand specialized ultrafiltration systems with unique capacities. Thankfully, NEWater manufactures numerous UF systems characterized by varying capacity ranges. This ensures that large-scale and small-scale enterprises have unlimited access to unique UF systems perfect for their respective applications.

Typical capacity ranges on standard UF systems vary from 10,000 GPD to over 1M GPD. For smaller or enormous capacities, our engineers provide customized solutions. NEWater’s comprehensive ultrafiltration systems cater for household, commercial and industrial applications.

Figure 4 Industrial Ultrafiltration System.

Low energy consumption.

Compared to other water filtration systems like Nanofiltration and reverse osmosis, the energy consumption of ultrafiltration systems is relatively low.  This is primarily because of their low operating pressure requirements. For household UF systems, the normal inlet pressure can be sufficient to initiate the ultrafiltration process.

Bigger UF systems such as industrial and commercial plants necessitate high-pressure pumps to generate adequate pressure. In addition to energy efficiency, NEWater’s ultrafiltration skids support varying power voltage and frequency options, 220V-480V, 50-60Hz.

Additional benefits of using ultrafiltration systems include:

  • Compact designs.
  • Low operating pressure.
  • Proficiency in removing bacteria and viruses.
  • Low operational costs.

Application Fields of Ultrafiltration Systems.

The versatility of ultrafiltration technology qualifies ultrafiltration systems for use in diverse fields. The industrial and commercial use of ultrafiltration water treatment systems dates back to the 1960s but gradual improvements to UF technology and systems have proliferated their use.

Additionally, many users view ultrafiltration as a cost-efficient water treatment solution compared to other distillation and filtration solutions like reverse osmosis and Nanofiltration. Underneath, we briefly expound on the diverse applications of ultrafiltration plants in water treatment.

Reverse osmosis pretreatment.

Reverse osmosis is particularly suited to filtering out dissolved solids. Without adequate pretreatment aimed at eradicating large suspended solids, the RO membranes are prone to clogging. Ultrafiltration is one of the most effective processes utilized to pretreat water for reverse osmosis treatment.

The deployment of ultrafiltration in reverse osmosis pretreatment mitigates membrane fouling ultimately prolonging the membranes’ lifespan. Given that ultrafiltration membrane pores are slightly larger than RO membrane pores, suspended solids, viruses, and slight amounts of salts are eradicated from the feed water.

This results in the production of high-quality potable water, extended membrane lifespan, and inexpensive operational costs. Applications utilizing UF systems as pretreatment units for reverse osmosis include reverse osmosis seawater desalination, wastewater treatment, and pharmaceutical water generation.

Wastewater treatment.

Environmental conservation agencies and governments across the world have instituted multiple laws that regulate wastewater quality and disposal methods. Most industries have in turn adopted ultrafiltration systems to treat their wastewater consequently reusing or recycling the filtrate generated. Moreover, disposing of treated wastewater possesses no threats to the environment, animal, or human life.

The use of ultrafiltration technologies in wastewater treatment can be in collaboration with other treatment mechanisms or as a standalone solution. The application approach is primarily influenced by the wastewater quality and the desired permeate quality.

Figure 5 Wastewater ultrafiltration system.

Pharmaceutical and medical industries.

Pharmaceutical and medical applications require varying qualities of purified water hence the widespread utilization of UF systems in pharmaceuticals. Ultrafiltration helps pharmaceutical manufacturing firms to generate product water that meets the requirements of medical regulations. Pharmaceutical ultrafiltration systems get rid of viruses, bacteria and suspended solids present in tap water thereby minimizing the chances of unfit pharmaceutical products.

To deliver high-grade product water for pharmaceutical applications, ultrafiltration is often deployed in tandem with other treatment technologies like reverse osmosis. The generated product water is often utilized to undertake cleaning and as an ingredient for medical products. At NEWater, you procure a specialized pharmaceutical water treatment system at customer-friendly rates.

Generation of drinking water.

Figure 6 Small-sized UF system for drinking water.

The global water shortage has left millions of people with no access to fresh drinking water. The value of fresh drinking water to human beings is immeasurable hence current generations are investing heavily in alternative sources of drinking water. Ultrafiltration allows water-deprived households to convert brackish water, seawater, and groundwater into high-quality water.

Ultrafiltration systems remove 90-95% of viruses, bacteria, and pathogens and over 99% of suspended solids present in feed water. This ensures the water generated is up to the quality standards stipulated by the WHO and respective public health regulations.

Other application fields of ultrafiltration include:

●Greywater treatment.
●Agricultural irrigation.

The Cost of Ultrafiltration Systems.

Major developments in ultrafiltration membrane technology have gradually shrunk the investment and operational costs of UF systems. Presently, the cost of treating water using ultrafiltration systems is at par with traditional media filters. The cost of purchasing UF equipment varies depending on;

●Flow rate.

These specifications differ in distinct ultrafiltration systems accounting for the variations in price tags. This makes price estimation quite difficult hence NEWater provides free price quotations on our website. In addition to the equipment cost, ultrafiltration systems command varying operational costs. Below, we discuss the primary operational costs resulting from the use of UF membrane treatment.


Firstly, the ultrafiltration system needs to be installed at the point of use. For turnkey UF systems, installation is less costly since the systems are majorly plug-and-play. Larger systems may demand professional installation services, which come at a price. NEWater provides on-site installation services for industrial UF systems at discounted prices. The installation cost will be determined once our engineers assess the quantity and quality of service needed.

Figure 7 Cost estimates for ultrafiltration systems.

Power Consumption.

Power is necessitated to run pressure pumps and membrane cleaning systems in ultrafiltration systems. One of the main reasons behind the widespread adoption of ultrafiltration water treatment is the efficiency in energy consumption. The energy consumption of UF systems depends on the concentration of feed water. Highly concentrated raw water tends to consume more power to treat.

However, the average power consumption of ultrafiltration systems is roughly 0.2 kWh/m 3. Compared to other water treatment solutions such as reverse osmosis, UF is undoubtedly the more energy-efficient technology. The cost is determined by multiplying your region’s billing rate to the system’s energy consumption.


Larger ultrafiltration systems utilized by municipalities and various industries necessitated skilled human labor. The total labor costs vary significantly depending on the quantity and quality of service demanded. The wages are also prone to regulations from the respective labor laws in respective countries. For instance, the total labor costs of UF systems in China are approximately 0.2 yuan/ton of water.

Maintenance costs.

Ultrafiltration systems require regular maintenance services for continued optimum services. Maintenance services demanded by an ultrafiltration system include membrane cleaning and replacement of damaged membrane elements. Thanks to the long-lasting nature of UF membranes, the maintenance costs are considerably low. With NEWater’s high-quality ultrafiltration membranes, you are assured of at least 12 months of high-quality services.

Ultimately, the comprehensive cost of acquiring and operating an ultrafiltration system is relatively cost-efficient. NEWater offers the best-priced UF systems thanks to our top-notch innovation in production processes and the use of cost-efficient yet highly effective equipment.

Examples of Ultrafiltration (UF) Systems.

Ultrafiltration is a water treatment technology widely in use in numerous industries. The applications of ultrafiltration systems vary from basic generation of drinking water in households to production of high-quality water for industries. In each sector, ultrafiltration systems are utilized distinctively, hence the production of distinct UF systems. The following are renowned ultrafiltration systems manufactured by NEWater for diverse industrial, commercial, and personal applications.

Wastewater ultrafiltration systems.

The growth of industries in the recent past has fundamentally increased the demand for high-quality potable water. To meet the existing demand, proactive industries are currently utilizing ultrafiltration technology to treat wastewater. The resulting permeate is either reused, recycled, or disposed of safely without harming the environment.

NEWater manufactures custom-built ultrafiltration systems uniquely equipped to eradicate suspended solids, bacteria, and viruses from wastewater. Our wastewater UF systems have an operating pressure of 35psi, which makes them an energy-efficient solution.

Wastewater UF systems are principally deployed as tertiary treatment solutions and reverse osmosis is often utilized to polish the resulting water. Ultrafiltration skids are ideal for household, commercial and industrial wastewater treatment.

Well water Ultrafiltration Systems.

Well water is subject to contamination from organic chemicals, microorganisms, and suspended solids present in the soil. As such, the use of untreated well water is limited thereby prompting the need for adequate treatment. Ultrafiltration systems enable households to generate fresh drinking water from their private wells at affordable rates.

Ultrafiltration is extremely proficient at eradicating microorganisms from feed water and the small-sized pores ensure that up to 99% of suspended solids are alienated from freshwater. At NEWater, you have unlimited access to premium UF systems specialized for small-scale and large-scale well water treatment.

Figure 8 Ultrafiltration system for well water treatment.

Skid-mounted Ultrafiltration Systems.

For easier operation, reduced footprint, and portability, ultrafiltration systems are often mounted on compact metal frames or rails. Our ultrafiltration skids are endowed with automatic user interfaces, which regulate the systems’ filtration and backwashing processes. NEWater’s UF skids are ideal water treatment solutions for wastewater, groundwater, and RO pretreatment.

Ultrafiltration skids have small-sized pores, which keep off suspended solids and microorganisms on the retentate side while allowing low molecular weight solutes access to the filtrate side. They are equipped with varying capacities and flow rates to accommodate diverse applications.

Containerized Ultrafiltration Systems.

These are self-contained water treatment units fitted on standard containers for easy mobility and operation. NEWater’s containerized UF systems are designed to generate heavy amounts of high-grade product water consistently. They are viable solutions for different forms of feed water including wastewater and well water.

Often, we manufacture containerized UF systems upon order placement. This allows our engineers to accurately incorporate your specifications into the containerized ultrafiltration equipment. Typical containers used to manufacture containerized UF plants include 10ft, 20ft, and 40ft. For inquiries or order placement, kindly get in touch with NEWater’s engineers.

 Figure 9 Containerized ultrafiltration unit.

Ultrafiltration plants configuration.

There are various UF system configurations, which dictate how users can deploy their ultrafiltration plant for optimum results. Primarily, membrane aeration and the vessel type determine the UF system configuration. Beneath are the varying system configurations feasible with varying ultrafiltration systems.

Aeration configuration.

Aeration configuration is founded on the application of bubbles to the UF membrane surface. The bubbles scrub off the constituents that have accumulated on the surface of the ultrafiltration membranes thereby mitigating membrane fouling. The following are the chief options for aeration ultrafiltration system configuration.

Separate aeration.

In separate aeration, the feed water is first aerated in a different container before being pumped into the chamber housing the UF membranes.

Integrated aeration.

Integrated configuration is characterized by the use of a single chamber to house the aerator and the UF membranes. An example of an integrated UF system configuration is a unit with a submerged tank whereby the membranes are above the aerator.

Submerged configuration.

The submerged configuration has numerous ultrafiltration membranes inserted into a pool of feed water held in a large container. The container is fitted with the appropriate inlet and outlet openings for smooth operation. Most Ultrafiltration units employ submerged configuration.

Pressurized configuration.

As the name suggests, pressurized configuration involves housing ultrafiltration membranes in a pressurized chamber. In the pressurized configuration, there are numerous vessels each harboring an inlet and outlet which are ultimately linked by a header. This header is primarily responsible for merging the treated water from the numerous vessels into a single stream.

At NEWater, you are guaranteed unlimited access to comprehensive UF systems and other water treatment units at competitive prices.

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