Can we evolve beyond thermal separation processes?

Colloquium | October 4 | 4-6 p.m. | 180 Tan Hall

 Ryan Lively, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology

 Department of Chemical Engineering

The rapid increase in global industrialization necessitates technology shifts in energy production, manufacturing, and carbon management techniques. Large energy costs in refineries, power plants, and manufacturing facilities using traditional separation techniques are currently a major opportunity for innovation. Approximately 10% of global energy use can be attributed to separation processes, with the vast majority of separations being “thermal” in nature (e.g., distillation). Significant energy and cost savings can be realized using advanced separation techniques such as membranes and sorbents. One of the major barriers to acceptance of these techniques remains linking engineering materials to actual processes that are effective in the presence of aggressive industrial feeds.
The creation of robust materials-enabled advanced separators and their manufacturing into low-cost, energy-efficient devices to meet this global challenge will be the focus of the talk. Engineering novel materials—such as zeolitic imidazolate frameworks, polymers of intrinsic microporosity, and carbon molecular sieves—into hollow fiber separation devices shows promise for emerging separation applications. These include natural gas liquid fractionation, olefin/paraffin separation, carbon capture, and organic solvent purification. Specifically, a new separation process known as “organic solvent reverse osmosis” that enables effective differentiation of isomer molecules will be presented. Synthesis and formation of advanced composite materials, mass transfer of small molecules through these materials, and an outlook for energy- and cost- efficient separations will be discussed. The dual advance of novel materials engineering and scalable separation device manufacturing will enable use of membranes and sorbents in critical industrial separation processes.