Separations Materials Development & Evaluation

The Bioprocessing Separations Consortium has the capability to develop separations materials including functionalized membranes, adsorbent materials with unique physical properties, biosorbents, polymer resins and to develop advanced solvents.Furthermore, advanced materials characterization capabilities lend insight into how material development conditions, material composition, and other factors influence structure that drives performance.

Membrane Materials

Consortium members develop tailored membranes for different separations applications. Membrane technologies include high-throughput membranes, seeding and growth systems applied to inorganic membranes, and electrochemical membranes.

  • Inorganic Membranes: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s membrane seeding and growth system can be used to produce inorganic novel membrane prototypes up to 13 cm x 13 cm in size for subsequent evaluation.
  • High Flux Membranes: Oak Ridge National Laboratory develops a new class of surface-engineered (superhydrophobic or superhydrophilic) nano/meso/micro-porous membranes that can be tailored for high permeation flux, high selectivity, and anti-fouling separations performance. Ceramic/metallic dense or nanoporous membranes are also fabricated for gas-phase or liquid phase separations (pervaporations or filtrations).

Adsorbents & Absorbents

Consortium members have the capability to produce sorbents in both batch and continuous modes from many different materials that can be tailored to specific separations applications. Furthermore, functionalized nanoparticles can be produced to adsorb toxins or products of interest.

  • Advanced Sorbent Development and Scale-up: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has both batch and continuous processing technologies for producing test quantities of new advanced sorbent materials, including advanced zeolites and custom metal organic framework compositions.
  • Inorganic Sorbents: Oak Ridge National Laboratory has unique and diverse experience in synthesizing and evaluating inorganic sorbent beads(of nanoporous oxides), molecular sieves, polymer and functionalized resins, and biosorbents.
  • Functionalized nano-sorbents: Argonne produces and evaluates functionalized nano-sorbents tailored to remove toxins or desired products from fermentation broth.

Advanced Solvents
Water lean solvents under development at Consortium member facilities reduce vaporization and sensible heat duties compared to conventional solvents.

  • Advanced Separation Solvents: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed unique capabilities to create solvents with low projected energy requirements for CO2 and other gas separations.

Materials Characterization

Flagship facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source offer unmatched capabilities to characterize membranes after fabrication and after use.

  • Membrane Autopsies: Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source can be used to characterize membrane structure and composition before and after use. In the latter case, failure mechanisms can be pinpointed leading to better design. In particular, these tools enable us to diagnose and predict, and ultimately prevent and control membrane biofouling
  • Analytical PicoProbe: This ultra-high-resolution analytical scanning/transmission electron microscope provides high spatial resolution imaging and analysis of materials specimens
  • Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS): This facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory can provide a suite of instrumental characterization capabilities via user proposals.

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Separations Process Development

The Bioprocessing Separations Consortium tests separations strategies employing new materials, process intensification, and other strategies with techniques involving membranes, advanced sorbents, catalytic filtration, and other methods.

Process Evaluation at Multiple Scales 

Consortium members have equipment and expertise to assess different separations approaches from membrane separation to liquid-liquid extraction at multiple scales.

  • Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s ABPDU hosts many different types of equipment to evaluate approaches to separations challenges: centrifuges, tangential flow filtration units, liquid-liquid extraction columns, wiped film evaporator/distillation unit, and sonification/homogenation units.
  • Bioproduct Separations Laboratory: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s facility includes an in-situ product recovery system, non-thermal dewatering chromatography, and spinning band distillation.
  • Chemical and Biological Separations:  Argonne National Laboratory has broad experience in membrane-based separations of biological and chemical process streams using both standard filtration processes such as MF, UF, NF, RO, as well as proprietary resin wafer electrodeionization (RW-EDI). Test systems are available at the bench and pilot scale to evaluate new process applications both at Argonne and on-site at industrial locations.
  • Filtration and Process Analysis: Idaho National Laboratory has benchtop platforms for microfiltration (MF) and ultrafiltration (UF) systems of organic/aqueous solvent systems which also include solids separations of larger suspended particulates ranging from submicron to millimeter sizes.
  • Forward Osmosis and Reverse Osmosis Process Testing: Forward Osmosis and Reverse Osmosis Process Testing (FOROPT): Idaho National Laboratory has the capacity to test forward osmosis (FO) membranes, reverse osmosis (RO) membranes, nano-filtration (NF) membranes, novel draw solutes, and the associated processes across a range of conditions and scales.
  • Membrane separation process development and evaluation: Oak Ridge National Laboratory has established bench-scale testing setups on  evaluating separation performance for filtrations, pervaporations, or microemulsion phase separations. Multi-tubular membrane modules can be also fabricated, assembled and evaluated for scalability studies.

Distillation: Conventional and Microchannel

Distillation and micro-channel distillation capabilities are available at multiple scales offer partners the opportunity to explore conventional and novel routes to separations with these approaches.

  • Distillation: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has distillation capabilities ranging from systems that can process on the order of 1-liter/day to up 30-gallons/day of material using one of multiple laboratory-scale and skid-mounted distillation systems or a wiped film distillation system
    Micro-distillation: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has unique capabilities in micro-channel-based distillation, with demonstrated heights of a theoretical plate (HETP) of <3.3 millimeters.

Catalytic Separations (including CHGF)

Consortium work in this area focuses on catalyst development. One prime area of application has been in catalytic hot gas filtration.

  • Nanoparticle and Catalyst Synthesis, Characterization, and Evaluation: Oak Ridge National Laboratory develops nanoparticles and catalysts with multiple applications to separations challenges, including catalytic hot gas filtration.
  • Catalytic Hot Gas Filtration: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory applies catalytic hot gas filtration towards the removal of alkali and char particles from hot vapors.

Ultrasonic Separations

Ultrasonic separations methods offer the potential to save energy consumption through forming large, fast-settling aggregates from small particles.

  • Ultrasonic Filtration and Particulate Removal: Low energy ultrasonic separation is being developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory for broad industrial application. Its fundamental construct is the removal of particles in liquid media. Applications include concentrating and dewatering microalgae in seawater, removing fines from bioprocess and mineral streams, and for coalescing emulsion droplets. Emerging particle and membrane technologies can transform this construct for molecular separations as well.

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Analysis & Computation

The Bioprocessing Separations Consortium evaluates the economic viability of separations approaches and the influence of separations approach on overall process energy and environmental impact. Furthermore, the Consortium partners with the Computational Chemistry and Physics Consortium to apply computational approaches to separations challenges.

Techno-economic and Sustainability Analysis

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