Chemical and Biological Separations

Capability Title Selective Multi-Scale Membrane Separations
Laboratory Argonne National Laboratory (ANL)
Capability expert Yupo Lin, Michael Henry, Lauren Valentino
Description Argonne National Laboratory evaluates and tests process designs and integrated technologies for chemical separations; nanomaterial characterization, and development and fabrication of materials for separation sciences and engineering. Argonne has both laboratory and pilot-scale units to test various membrane separation technologies including MF,UF RO,  selective membrane separations, ceramic membrane contactor (for liquid-liquid extraction), electrochemical ion-exchange membrane separation, and ion-exchange resin wafer membrane separations. Process development at Argonne can be carried out at various scales and in a phased approach to help industrial partners evaluate various technologies. Examples include exploratory studies for feasibility evaluation and bench-scale process optimization up to pilot-scale demonstration. We provide the key process performance data and analysis to help industry make an informed business decision on new process commercialization. Argonne has established the following capabilities to shorten deployment for application of RW EDI or ICST to new process systems.

  • Preliminary process economic assessment based on laboratory-scale tests
  • Flexible pilot-scale process demonstration of industrial product
  • High-bay (at ANL) pilot-scale demonstration
  • Pilot-scale demonstration at industrial sites
  • Quick technical feasibility evaluation at the lab-scale for new product applications
  • Establishment of knowledge-based process control protocol for process optimization

Argonne has helped industry to  assess process performance in several applications, including:

  • Desalination of low conductivity liquids
  • Organic acid product capture/concentration
  • In-situ process pH manipulation
  • Catalytic (biological/chemical) conversion
Limitations Argonne’s proprietary resin wafer technology enables the cost-effective capture of organic acids or salts from dilute aqueous streams. The linear scale-up feature significantly reduces the R&D risk for industrial applications. Argonne is also developing automatic manufacturing technology for resin wafer fabrication that will significantly reduce material costs for RW EDI systems.
Unique aspects  Argonne’s proprietary resin wafer technology enables the cost-effect capture of organic acids from dilute aqueous phase.  Its near linear scale-up feature significantly reduce the R&D risk for industrial applications.  Argonne also developed an automatic manufacture technology to fabricate the resin wafer material.
Availability Argonne has more than 8 laboratory-scale RW-EDI pieces of equipment that enable simultaneous evaluation of applications.  We has a skid-mounted pilot-scale of RW-EDI system and microfiltration membrane separation system for pilot-scale process performance evaluation.
Citations/references Yupo J. Lin, Jamie A. Hestekin, Norman Sather, Bioprocessing of Cost-Competitive Biobased Organic Acids,” in “Commercializing Biobased Products: Opportunities, Challenges, Benefits, and Risks, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Green Chemistry series No. 43, Chapter 9, 2016
Exploratory, bench, and pilot scale RW-EDI devices


Top: Commercial-scale resin wafer fabrication; Bottom: Pilot-scale pulse-flow microfiltration for solid-liquid separations
Field demonstration of a pilot-scale separative bioreactor, integrated separation and fermentation.


Automatic assembly line for industrial-scale wafer manufacture.