Development of new affinity separation processes that are more energy efficient than the current state of the art. This will drastically reduce the consumption of energy in the chemical industry.
Development of new affinity separation methods, in particular
1) Novel liquid-liquid extraction processes and extractive distillation processes to substitute current traditional distillation based processes that are more energy intensive;
2) Novel hybrid membranes for nanofiltration that are solvent resistant and can separate molecules heavier than 200 g/mol out of a mixture (a so-called Molecular Weight Cut-Off of 200 g/mol).
For 1), a comprehensive relation between molecular properties and affinity strength in real solvent environments is aimed at, together with the link from the affinity strength to the vapor liquid behavior. This will provide a better insight in selecting the optimal complexing agent (solvent) balancing economics and energy consumption in the separation step and the solvent regeneration step for a range of applications. This knowledge, will enable step change improvements in solvent affinity separation processes.
For 2), new hyper-crosslinked hybrid inorganic-organic membranes will be synthesized and characterized. The performance and endurance of these membranes will be tested on demonstration scale, using relevant industrial solvent-solute systems.
In the chemical industry large amounts of energy are consumed for molecular separations, for instance separations of pure components from a mixture. Replacing the currently-used energy-intensive classical separation techniques with new and benign methods provides a great potential for energy savings. Here two energy efficient separations approaches are investigated that rely on the affinity between the molecules that are to be separated and either a solvent, or a solid material, called the affinity separation agent. In solvent affinity separation the fundamentals underlying the interaction between the solvent and solute are to be investigated, ultimately enabling the design of optimal solvents, and the design of optimal solvent affinity separations taking into account both the separation and the solvent recovery step. The affinity between molecules and solid materials will be exploited in membrane nanofiltration. Here a new generation of robust high-performance hybrid membranes will be developed that can be economically produced on a large scale.
The result of this project is the foundation for new separation processes that will enable a reduction in energy consumption of 20 - 40 PJ per annum (10 – 20 % of the total energy consumption of separation processes in The Netherlands).