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Health care filtration markets show potential for future growth.

recent marketing report profiles several filtration areas in the health care industry; an analysis of membrane technology and market segments show areas with potential for the future

Gross sales in 1991 for the membrane filters market was $1.6 billion, which includes both health care and non-health care segments. The health care segment alone reached $1 billion and at an 11% annual projected growth rate is expected to grow to $1.9 billion by 1997. Within the health care area, hospital and blood bank filtration was the largest segment, with 41% of the health care gross market sales.

The next largest segment in the area is food, beverage and household water filtration, representing 20% of sales. Diagnostic and biotechnology is the third largest segment, with 13% of the total, while fourth is pharmaceutical and bioprocessing, representing 9% of the market.

Filtration processes in these areas include microfiltration, the process of removing contaminants in the .025-10 micrometer range from fluids by passage through a microporous medium; ultrafiltration, the process of separating extremely small particles and dissolved molecules from fluid; reverse osmosis, the process of separating particles that are between .001 and .0003 micrometers and affinity filtration, utilizing binding capacities to separate particles.

There are more than 100 companies that supply filters to the health care and overall domestic and foreign markets, but the top three - Pall Corporation, Millipore and Gelman Sciences - make up the vast majority. These three companies combined hold 77% of the health care market and 42% of the overall membrane filtration market.

A Categorical Breakdown

A wide range of microporous membranes is used for filtration or venting in medical applications. Many medical devices are designed to convey fluids like blood, urine or intravenous solutions that must flow in a sterile environment. Hydrophilic membranes are conducive to the passage of air and fluids and serve as IV infusion filters, syringe filters and air filters for purposes of sterilization. They are also used extensively in cardiovascular bypass surgery procedures, which require a number of different filters, often arranged in series to remove contaminants in decreasing size order.

Blood oxygenation. Hydrophobic membranes allow the free passage of air while preventing the transmission of fluids and aerosols. Although these membranes are still highly porous, water does not wick through the pores because the surface tension of the membrane is so low. For example, in the case of blood oxygenation - one of the long established uses of hydrophobic membranes - the material acts as a barrier between blood and oxygen streams.

Venous-pressure transducers. Another application involves the use of disposable in-line hydrophobic membrane filters to protect the venous-pressure transducers in hemodialysis equipment from blood contamination. These transducer protectors must allow free air permeability without compromising transducer accuracy or response time, prevent transducer contamination by blocking the passage of blood and aerosols and eliminate cross-contamination between patients by allowing only sterile air to leave the system.

Diagnostics. The highly pure and uniform structure of membranes has led to their widespread use as substrates in diagnostic kits for both solid-phase and prefiltration layers, replacing less versatile materials such as cellulosic paper, porous beads and gels. The membranes'controlled, microporous structure assures uniform wicking and protein transport and binding and results in high contact probability during flow-through.

An application such as enzyme loading, in which a substrate is saturated with an enzyme that will later react with the components of blood or urine, takes advantage of the consistent thickness and void volume of a membrane to ensure that equal amount of enzyme is loaded for each test. Additional diagnostic procedures for which membranes are particularly well suited include direct binding, urine prefiltration, blood filtration and latex entrapment.

Controlled release. The homogeneous permeability characteristics and chemical inertness of many membranes make them useful in controlled-release products such as transdermal drug delivery systems. In these applications, a supporting reservoir or drug matrix is usually fused to the membrane to store and deliver the fluid to the membrane surface, from which it is released in very small quantities at low flow rates. The support adds strength and the resultant composite structure can be formulated with the flexural characteristics necessitated by muscular movement.

Wound dressings/protective clothing. Several of the membrane characteristics discussed - gas transfer and barrier properties, sterilizing filtration and rate control capabilities - combine to promote the use of membranes for nonwoven end use applications such as wound or burn dressings or protective garments. Depending on the breathability of the membrane chosen, wound dressings can be occlusive, nonocclusive or semiocclusive.

When laminated to fabrics, hydrophobic membranes provide a breathable yet waterproof protective barrier suitable for surgical drapes and gowns and bacteria and chemical resistant cleanroom garments.

Electrochemical components. A significant percentage of medical devices are battery powered and membranes are used in separators, capacitors and vents for both primary and secondary batteries.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Rodman Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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