In 1917 P. A. Kober published a paper in which he described his observation that “a liquid in a collodium bag, which was suspended in the air, evaporated, although the bag was tightly closed”. Other persons before him have observed this phenomenon as well but Kober was the first researcher to realize the potential for separation of liquids of this phenomenon and introduced the terms “Pervaporation and Perstillation”. In the following years Kober and other published various papers but due to the lack of understanding of membrane processes in general and the absence of suitable membranes hindered a break through to industrial applications.
Only when GFT patented the PVA membrane in 1982 and built in 1983 in Brazil the first industrial pervaporation plant to dehydrate ethanol from 90 wt% to 99.8 wt% the pervaporation process gained importance in industry. Since 1982 till 2016 more than 300 PV/VP plants of different sizes have been built equipped mainly with the polymeric PVA membrane but also some with the ceramic NaA membrane.
The importance of pervaporation and vapour permeation is now increasing. The reasons are the lower energy requirements of the PV/VP systems compared to conventional processes as distillation etc., the better utilization of raw materials and easier achievement of environmental requirements. In combination with other membranes as RO, UF, MF, ED and other processes, Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) can be obtained in many cases.