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. There is more than 2 M€ funding available for the next 4 years.