What is the Difference Between Hollow Fiber and Spiral Wound Membrane?

Water treatment technologies have witnessed significant advancements over the years. Among the various available technologies, membrane filtration stands out primarily because of its efficiency and sustainability. Two leading membrane filtration technologies dominate the industry: hollow fiber and spiral wound membranes. This article will delve into the nitty-gritty of these two types and their key differences.

hollow fiber membrane and spiral wound membrane

What is a hollow fiber membrane?

A hollow ultrafiltration membrane, as its name suggests, is a hollow, tubular structure. Its walls are riddled with microscopic pores. The pore size represents the material’s molecular weight that can be retained, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands.

Advantages of hollow fiber membrane

  1. Operates under mild conditions, preserving heat-sensitive substances such as drugs and enzymes.
  2. Eco-friendly separation technology that consumes minimal energy and avoids pollutants.
  3. Simplified process flow that’s easy to operate, manage, and automate.


  • Complex manufacturing technology.
  • Challenges in cleaning the membrane.

What is a spiral-wound membrane?

The rolled ultrafiltration membrane possesses a unique rolled structure. Resembling a long envelope, this membrane wraps multiple times around a central tube. Water enters the tube under pressure during operation, and impurities get filtered on the membrane surface.

What are the advantages of spiral wound membranes?

  1. Maintains physical and chemical properties of the original product due to its operation at normal temperature and low pressure.
  2. Low-cost equipment with a straightforward structure.
  3. Simple, efficient, and highly automated ultrafiltration process.


  • More intricate manufacturing and sealing processes.
  • Prone to clogging and challenges in high-pressure operations.

What is the difference between hollow fiber and spiral wound membrane?

Cleaning and Maintenance

Hollow fiber membranes tend to be more user-friendly when it comes to cleaning and maintenance compared to their spiral-wound counterparts. The latter’s grid structure often leads to cleaning dead spots.


Typically, the water permeability resistance in spiral wound membranes makes their flux lower than hollow ultrafiltration membranes.

Integrity Testing

While hollow fiber membranes can undergo integrity testing, the same can’t be said for spiral wound membranes.

Surface Area and Usage

Due to their structure, Spiral wound membranes generally have a larger total surface area. Their versatile design makes them suitable for various industrial applications. Hollow fiber membranes are preferred for treating industrial wastewater and producing top-tier drinking water.


Both hollow fiber membranes and spiral wound membranes have carved out a niche in the water treatment industry. Their differences in structure, cleaning convenience, flux, and integrity testing make each suitable for specific applications. Decision-makers must weigh these differences against their needs and process requirements to choose the right membrane technology.


What is the main difference between hollow fiber and spiral wound membranes?

Hollow fiber membranes are tubular structures with microscopic pores, while spiral wound membranes have a rolled structure wrapped around a central tube.

Which membrane is easier to clean?

Hollow fiber membranes are generally easier to clean and maintain.

Can both types of membranes undergo integrity testing?

No, only hollow fiber membranes can undergo integrity testing.

Which membrane has a broader application range in industries?

While both membranes have diverse applications, due to their compact design and affordability, spiral wound membranes find uses in a broader range of industries.

Are hollow fiber membranes suitable for high-quality drinking water production?

Yes, hollow fiber ultrafiltration membranes are preferred for producing high-quality drinking water.

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