The History of Industrial Filtration

We here at Advanced Filtration like to think of ourselves as veterans of the field–but the field itself goes back… way, way back. In fact, industrial water filtration, surprisingly, is not a new concept.

It actually goes back 7,000 years, to one of the most advanced ancient civilizations at the time. And while we salute the Ancient Egyptians for their ingenuity, 21st Century filtration methods are probably a bit more sanitary and secure.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the history of industrial filtration, and see how it has advanced and improved over time, to get us to where we are today.


4,000 Years Ago

The Ancient Egyptians loved papyrus, the reeds that grew along the banks of the Nile River. They wove them into baskets, and also water filters. They also made porous clay pots to filter water as the world’s first ceramic filters around 2,000 BCE.

2,700 Years Ago

Ancient Hindu cultures in India describe using rocks, sand, and gravel to filter water. Surprisingly, these media also tend to work today as well.

2,500 Years Ago

Greek physician Hippocrates (who invented the Hippocratic Oath) invented a sleeve that used cloth to filter out impurities from boiled water. He had the right idea!

400 Years Ago

Fast forward to the year 1627, and Sir Francis Bacon in England. He experimented with the desalination of seawater by passing it through many layers of sand. His work occurred during the start of the Industrial Revolution, when industrial water supplies might have become contaminated with chemicals.

275 Years Ago

Frenchman Jean-Antoine Nollet discovered how osmosis worked in 1748. He noticed how a dissolved substance passes through a thin membrane by moving from a liquid with a low concentration to a high concentration.

Nollet’s experiments were later developed to create modern reverse osmosis and large-scale desalination processes.

100 Years Ago

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Richard Zsigmondy invented the first microfiltration membrane filter in 1922. Five years later, pharmaceutical company Sartorius AG commercially produced the filters for use in food production and medicine manufacturing because the membranes filtered particles down to the microscopic level.

Filters of this era relied on natural materials to filter water. You would find wool, cotton, and wood fiber enmeshed in metallic screens to give them sturdiness and shape. Charcoal also came into use in this time period, and that is a practice still used today.

Reverse Osmosis in 1959

Researchers Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourirajan created the first asymmetric reverse osmosis filter out of plant-based acetate. It allowed water to pass through while capturing dissolved sodium chloride solids (TDS) under pressure, which was the first successful use of desalination in history.

It also began modern industrial filtration because reverse osmosis is used in so many processes, from bottled water and juice production to pharmaceutical manufacturing and large-scale desalination plants in the Middle East.

60 Years Ago

The 1960s saw rapid advancements in industrial water filtration systems.

Crossflow filtration came online for industrial processes during the 1960s. Water is pushed across a membrane filter rather than directly through it to prolong the life of the filter. Cross-flow filtration also reduces fouling and mechanical problems.

In 1965, polyethersulfone (PES) plastic, a polymer, began to be used as a filtration media due to its resistance to water and easy manufacture.

Companies combined PES with ceramics to achieve even higher levels of efficiency, improved flow rates, better selectivity, and increased strength. It has made industrial filtration more common and more affordable.


In the 21st Century, we have so many industrial filtration options thanks to advanced research and modern technology.

Nanoparticles, though largely still in research facilities, can filter out even the tiniest particles from water or other liquids. These carbon-fiber particles are woven together and aligned in such a way that only water or pure liquids can get through. Sometimes, even dissolved particles get trapped by nanoparticles so small you need a microscope to see them.

IoT sensors can connect to computer networks and systems to tell engineers when filtration needs to be changed, if there are any anomalies, and maintenance intervals so industrial facilities can plan for downtime and staffing levels.

UV filters can kill bacteria and microorganisms quickly and effectively, achieving a level of sanitization not found previously.

Advanced Filtration Helps Your Industrial Facility

Advanced Filtration provides the world with the best industrial filters for your facility.

We carry and install a full line of Kaydon filters that fit a wide range of industrial machines, from cartridges and instrumentation to spare parts. Our team also stocks more than 15 different brands and lines of industrial filtration to meet your exact specifications, whether you have a food or pharma manufacturing plant, chemical or petroleum refinery, or a utility-grade power generator.

Even better, our technicians can install every filtration system we sell to help your company reduce downtime, save on labor costs, maintain equipment warranties, and plan for maintenance schedules.

Contact Advanced Filtration today for more information.

Advanced Filtration's Industrial filtration experts provide you with the information you need to properly select filters for any industrial application or production issue. 

Advanced Filtration ships throughout the world and offers on site support and service to the New York and Philadelphia metro areas including all of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, southwestern Connecticut and southern New York State.

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    John Woods founded Advanced Filtration in 1993 as a privately owned engineering representative for manufacturers of filtration, separation and heat transfer equipment. With more than 25 years in industrial filtration John offers a level of expertise to every sales consultation.