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Developing energy efficient separations across a range of industrial applications

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Theme overview and objectives

Our main objective is to develop energy efficient separations across a range of industrial applications using novel materials and synthesis, chemical analysis and systems and process design. By integrating chemical and biochemical processes with solutions to their separations challenges we create tailored and transferrable separations solutions for a multitude of scenarios. These include membrane-based separations in the gas and liquid phase, CO2 removal from complex effluent streams, and waste refining and trace element removal from complex streams.

Methods and capabilities

We utilise a wide variety of technologies to implement these goals. Our characterisation expertise enables us to examine structured materials, custom liquids, and porous solids while focusing on their thermophysical, sorption and performance properties, extending across synthetic and natural materials. We utilise advanced synthetic techniques and materials processing to develop materials suitable to a variety of challenging environments. We remediate difficult waste streams (CO2 from gas streams, waste water, trace heavy metal removal from solid and liquid waste streams) to enable further processing and valorisation of these resources.

Highlights

Chemical Engineering engineers develop extremely permeable, very strong nanofilm
We have produced ultrathin (<10 nm) synthetic membranes that can filter small molecules from organic solutes. These nanofilms are extremely permeable, yet very strong. Possible applications of the membranes include purifying organic mixtures in industries such as pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and oil refining. Find out more or read the paper in Science (Karan et al. 2015. Sub–10 nm polyamide nanofilms with ultrafast solvent transport for molecular separation. Science: 348. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5058).

Ultrafiltration We have developed a new technique called ‘combined crystallisation and diffusion’ (CCD) to produce ultrafiltration membranes with pore sizes as small as 30 nm. Find out more or read the paper in Nature Communications (Wang et al. 2016. Crystal nuclei templated nanostructured membranes prepared by solvent crystallization and polymer migration. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12804.)

Imaging of gas adsorption in microporous solids.
Imaging of gas adsorption in microporous solids. A novel method has been developed that makes use of non-invasive X-ray CT imaging to visualise and measure gas adsorption in a fixed-bed adsorption column (13X zeolite bed in this example). Figure from: Pini R. (2014) Multidimensional quantitative imaging of gas adsorption in nanoporous solids, Langmuir, 30(37), 10984-10989

Designer membranes We developed a new synthetic approach for generating high-performance microporous polymer membranes that have potential applications in a wide range of separation processes. Find out more or read the paper published in Nature Materials (Jimenez-Solomon et al. 2016. Polymer nanofilms with enhanced microporosity by interfacial polymerization. Nature Materials, DOI: 10.1038/nmat4638)

The BioFlex process is a technology that allows the effective separation of the main components in wood, lignin and cellulose, under mild conditions.
The BioFlex process is a technology that allows the effective separation of the main components in wood, lignin and cellulose, under mild conditions.

Barrer Centre
The Barrer Centre for excellence in research on membrane and adsorption science and technology launched on 10 October 2016. Find out more

Synfabfun
SynFabFun is a £4.5million Programme Grant aimed at multidisciplinary membrane synthesis, fabrication and application research funded by EPSRC. Find out more

Highlight videos

Pedal-powered water purification using membranes

The Livingston Group from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London perform research on the fabrication and application of molecular separation membranes with the overarching aim to reduce energy costs and increase efficiency of chemical separations in industry.
At Imperial Festival 2016 the group demonstrated the power of membranes to purify water by comparing the bicycle driven energy needed to purify water through distillation vs membrane purification ... the membrane bike won!

Pedal-powered water purification using membranes

Pedal-powered water purification using membranes

The Livingston Group at Imperial Festival 2016

The Livingston Group from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London perform research on the fabrication and application of molecular separation membranes with the overarching aim to reduce energy costs and increase efficiency of chemical separations in industry.
At Imperial Festival 2016 the group demonstrated the power of membranes to purify water by comparing the bicycle driven energy needed to purify water through distillation vs membrane purification ... the membrane bike won!

Bradley Ladewig - Membrane Research in the Barrer Centre

Bradley Ladewig - Membrane Research in the Barrer Centre

Bradley Ladewig talks about the research in his group, in the Barrer Centre in the Department of Che

Bradley Ladewig talks about the research in his group, in the Barrer Centre in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London

'Crumpled' filter has potential to slash energy consumption

'Crumpled' filter has potential to slash energy consumption

Imperial researchers from the Department have developed advanced membranes.

Engineers have developed an ultra-thin, super-strong membrane to filter liquids and gases, with the potential to cut energy consumption in industry. Find out more

Why paper-thin filters could be key to cutting emissions

Why paper-thin filters could be key to cutting emissions

Audio story with Professor Andrew Livingston on his group's latest membrane research

In this audio story, Professor Andrew Livingston gives listeners the low-down on membranes and how they are used to make many products we need in our daily lives. He also carries out ‘frontier’ research, where he is pushing the boundaries membranes usage forward. He and his team have developed membranes that are made from nanoscopic, twisted, fusilli-like material. He talks about how industries such as the oil and gas sector could be the big winners by adopting this technology, which in the future could cut their emissions and save energy.

 

Membrane sheet making facility

Membrane sheet making facility

Making sheet membranes with Marcus Cook from the Livingston group.

The development of the membrane separation industry

The development of the membrane separation industry

Dr Richard Baker on the development of the membrane separation industry -

The inaugural Barrer Lecture and Distinguished Chemical Engineering Seminar was given by Dr Richard Baker, Founder and Principal Scientist, Membrane Technology and Research Inc., on 10 October 2016 at Imperial College London.
Find out more about the Barrer Centre

Ladewig Group at Imperial College London

Ladewig Group at Imperial College London

A short introduction to the Ladewig Group at Imperial College London

See the video at www.ladewig.co and read more about the work of the Ladewig Group.

Dr Patrizia Marchetti on membrane research

Dr Patrizia Marchetti on membrane research

Her research activity covers membrane-based separation processes

Patrizia Marchetti, research associate, Imperial College London – UK

Patrizia holds a BSc (2007) and MSc (2009) in chemical engineering from the Politecnico of Milan, Italy. She obtained her PhD degree under Marie Curie Actions from Imperial College London (2013). Her work at Imperial has been sponsored by Lanxess, a German polymer and specialty chemicals group, and more recently by GSK.

Her research activity covers the fields of pharmaceutical downstream, peptide chemistry, membrane-based separation processes, functional and nano-scale materials and advanced nanoparticle assembly, transport and process modelling.

Patrizia’s research achievements have resulted in several research articles and reviews in international scientific journals, two book chapters, a patent application and numerous presentations at renowned international conferences.

Sub–10 nm polyamide nanofilms for molecular separation

Sub–10 nm polyamide nanofilms for molecular separation

Dr Santanu Karan on his work which was published in Science