Global Environment Research Laboratories

The Global Environment Research Laboratories were first launched in 1991 as the Global Environment Research Laboratory, and then re-established as the Laboratories in 2002. These laboratories develop and commercialize all types of membrane products in the water treatment field, based on the foundation of Toray’s organic synthesis technology, polymer technology and nano-processing technology.

Global Environment Research Laboratories carry out researches which meet customer’s requirements with deepening and expanding polymer separation membrane technology based on nanotechnology. Up to now, we have developed all types of separation membranes such as reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), ultrafiltration (UF) and microfiltration (MF) membranes. RO membranes are used for the production of ultrapure water, seawater desalination, and sewage water treatment and reuse. Furthermore, we have focused on R&D on membranes and membrane treatment processes for the fields of biochemicals, life innovation, and resources/energy.

Surface of high-performance RO membranes synthesized with precise interface polymerizationSurface of high-performance RO membranes synthesized with precise interface polymerization
* Winner of the 2014 Chemistry Technology Awards of Chemical Society of Japan

RO membranes

Recently, we have developed high-performance RO membranes for the world’s largest membrane-based seawater desalination plants. These membranes simultaneously achieve enhanced boron removal performance and water production rate by using unique technology to control membrane fine structures at the subnanometer level. We have also engaged in extensive analysis of the separating functional layer of RO membranes, and quantitatively clarified the protuberance structure, pores, and water channel structure for the first time in the world. In addition, by using our unique interfacial polymerization and surface control technology, we have successfully developed high-functionality RO membranes with high water permeability, removal performance, fouling resistance.

UF and MF membranes

We have developed PVDF hollow fiber membranes featuring both toughness achieved by our unique thermally induced phase separation method, and a precise pore structure with a few nanometers to several tens of nanometers. These membranes have been recognized for high durability and separation performance in applications such as drinking water, industrial water, pretreatment for seawater desalination and sewage water reuse. Recently, we have also conducted R&D on membranes to realize new applications such as processes to utilize biomass resources. Toray’s PVDF submerged MF membranes for membrane bioreactor possess excellent anti-fouling property and high permeability realized by controlling surface pore size far smaller than activated sludge particles and increasing the number of pores. These membranes are operating in several hundred waste-water treatment plants worldwide.

Integrated Membrane System (IMS)

We are conducting R&D on IMS, which is membrane-based water treatment system by combining membranes with dissimilar functions, such as RO, NF, UF and MF, to reduce water production cost and to provide superior performance.
For example, Toray has promoted a “Water Plaza”, in collaboration with Kitakyushu City, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, Hitachi, Ltd., Infrastructure Systems Company and etc. In this project, energy-saving and environment-friendly water production system, which is integrated seawater desalination and sewage recycling system, was developed.

Seawater Desalination Plant

Point Lisas Seawater Desalination Plant, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, using Toray’s RO membrane elements (Trinidad and Tobago)

Seawater Desalination Plant

Hamma Seawater Desalination Plant, the largest in Africa, using Toray’s RO membrane elements (Algeria)
* The membrane elements won the Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Award, Special Prize in 2009

Global research and development

We are moving forward with world-class R&D on water treatment membranes and related application technologies, such as region-specific customer demonstrations based on membrane treatment processes and water quality analysis. This work is being done in collaboration with the Toray Singapore Water Research Center [TSWRC], Toray Advanced Materials Research Laboratories (China) Co., Ltd., Research Center of Toray Membrane USA, and Toray International India Private Limited.

membrane-based water purification facility

Largest membrane-based water purification facility in Korea, employing Toray hollow fiber membrane modules (Gongju)
* The PVDF hollow fiber membrane modules were the winner of the 2007 Technology Award of the Society of Chemical Engineers, Japan

Pore structure

Pore structure of crosslinked polyamide for RO membrane analyzed using molecular dynamics simulation

Milestones in Toray R&D

1981 Commenced production of Toray ROMEMBRA™ reverse osmosis membrane.
1991 Global Environment Research Laboratory opened in Shiga.
1998 Commenced production of TORAYFIL™ PAN hollow fiber ultrafiltration membrane.
2002 Changed name to Global Environment Research Laboratories.
2005 Established production technology of TORAYFIL™ PVDF hollow fiber membrane.
Established production technology of MEMBRAY™ PVDF membrane for MBR.
2009 Opened Toray Singapore Water Research Center [TSWRC].
2015 Created Innovative Reverse Osmosis (RO) Membrane.