Many chemical companies are nowadays confronted with very challenging liquid separations, aiming at separating molecules with very similar physical properties. The current trend towards more bio-based and/or highly-tailored chemicals, will only increase the number of these demanding separations. These challenges would benefit from efficient Affinity Separations (AS). The most traditional AS technology is liquid-liquid extraction, where the extracting solvent acts as the separation agent (ASA). The most selective AS is liquid chromatography, driven by the affinity between molecules and a functionalised stationary phase, the separation material (ASM). Although successful in different situations, both AS processes have important drawbacks. EasiChem aims at tackling these limitations, by developing more efficient, and/or more sustainable AS processes, focusing on two promising, energy-poor liquid separation technologies :
1. Membrane-based AS processes : bringing the selectivity of chromatography to membrane separations, using functionalised ceramic membranes tailored to match the separation problem;
2. Continuous chromatography : tackling the main disadvantage of selective chromatography, making use of a membrane-contactor-like design at microreactor scale.
The work programme is intended to extensively explore, understand and benchmark the capabilities and limitations of the new AS processes using a myriad of functionalized ceramic materials.
EASiCHEM is a strategic basic research (SBO) project funded by the Flemish spearhead cluster for the chemical industry CATALISTI. Partners are VITO (coordinator), UGent, KULeuven, UHasselt, UAntwerpen, VUB and UCL.