Imperial College London

Barrer Centre for membrane research launches

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Barrer Centre

The Barrer Centre Leadership team

A new Centre at Imperial launched today which aims to develop new technologies for reducing the energy cost of separation processes in industry.

Separation processes consume about 40 per cent of energy used in the refining and petrochemical industries. Current techniques often use costly separation processes such as distillation and evaporation which now account for 10 to 15 percent of the world’s annual energy use. Using membranes for the separation of gases and chemicals provides an alternative, more efficient, non-thermal solution which has the potential to reduce energy consumption significantly, as well as reducing pollution and cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The applications for membranes to industrial processes are vast and include areas such as for water recovery, environmental protection, energy conversion, fluid separation, food technology, bioprocessing, and biomedical devices.

The Barrer Centre will push the boundaries of discovery and accelerate the search to find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges

– Professor Nick Jennings

Vice Provost for Research, Imperial College London

Today Imperial College London will launch the Barrer Centre, a new research centre of excellence on membrane and adsorption science and technology. Led by a team of chemical engineering academics at Imperial, the Barrer Centre will provide a focus for breakthrough research in separation technology. Through fostering mutually beneficial collaborations between academics and external organisations as well as the public, the Centre will enhance discovery and innovation within the separations field.

By bringing together world-leading researchers the Centre will serve as a focal point for ground-breaking research. The research will target solutions to some global grand challenges and this will includes areas in which the team already has a track record of producing top-class, applicable research, such as:

Beyond its research activities, the Centre will also concentrate on technology transfer and commercial entrepreneurship through the design of systems for specific industrial applications, as well as providing training and technical information for engineers in research and industry.

A range of high-profile policy-makers, industrialists and experts in global separations will attend the launch event and take part in a highly interactive day of presentations, break-out sessions and laboratory tours which focus on “Separation Challenges” and culminating in a keynote inaugural Barrer Lecture on “The Development of the Membrane Separation Industry” which will be delivered by Richard Baker, Founder and Principal Scientist at Membrane Technology and Research Inc, USA and Chair of the Barrer Centre.

Barrer pic

Some of the membranes the group work on


Professor Nick Jennings, Vice Provost for Research at Imperial said: “Research excellence is at the heart of our academic mission at Imperial. Uniquely this Centre will bring together world-leading research capabilities, an innovative, interdisciplinary approach and new opportunities for lasting industrial partnerships. The Barrer Centre will push the boundaries of discovery and accelerate the search to find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Barrer Centre Director, Professor Andrew Livingston said: “By exploiting complementary and wide-ranging knowledge, the Barrer Centre aims to develop novel approaches to tackle topical questions in membrane and adsorbents and, hopefully, at the same time lead to new theoretical developments. A key aim of the Centre is to stimulate, develop and deliver high quality research in all aspects of membrane and adsorption science and technology across all scales, ranging from the nanoscale to the macro-scale. Our aim is to elevate the Barrer Centre to international pre-eminence in the field of separation science and materials”.

The Centre is named in honour of the late Richard Barrer, who is credited with breakthrough research in polymer membranes and molecular transport in microporous media and establishing the field of zeolite research and its applications in industry. The ‘Barrer’, the unit of gas permeability which is still used today, is named after him. A distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Barrer was also a former Head of the Chemistry Department at Imperial College London. Richard Barrer’s daughter Christine Schwob welcomed the establishment of the new centre named in her father’s honour.

Find out more on the Barrer Centre website.

For further information please contact:

Michael Panagopulos
Communications Officer, Department of Chemical Engineering
Imperial College London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6607


Mrs Angela Lonergan

Mrs Angela Lonergan
Department of Chemical Engineering

Michael Panagopulos

Michael Panagopulos
Department of Chemical Engineering

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