Tim Van Geel
PhD student
Ir. at KUL in 2019

Main project: Efficient membrane-based affinity separations for chemical applications
Funding: Catalisti
Supervisor(s): Patricia Luis Alconero

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. The EasiChem project aims at tackling these limitations, by developing more efficient, and/or more sustainable AS processes, focusing on promising, energy-poor liquid separation technologies like membrane-based AS processes.

The goal of developing these membrane-based AS processes is to bring the selectivity of chromatography to membrane separations, using functionalised ceramic membranes tailored to match the separation problem. The work programme is intended to extensively explore, understand and benchmark the capabilities and limitations of this new AS process, using a myriad of functionalized ceramic materials.

A division is made between processes driven by an Affinity Separation Agent (ASA), and processes driven by an Affinity Separation Material (ASM). In addition to continuous chromatography, three promising membrane-based AS processes will be developed within the EasiChem project: open membrane extraction using hydrophobized ceramic microfiltration membranes (ASA process), innovative tight membrane extraction and affinity nanofiltration, both with functionalised ceramic membranes (ASM processes). Polymeric membranes will be used for comparison.

Within the framework of the EasiChem project, several work packages were defined, of which this research project represents work package 5. This work package deals with open membrane extraction using hydrophobized ceramic microfiltration membranes.

IMMC main research direction(s):
Civil and environmental engineering
Chemical engineering

enzymes, ionic liquids, postcombustion co2 capture
membrane technology
process intensification

Research group(s): IMAP
Collaborations: Supervisor at KU Leuven: prof. dr. Bart Van der Bruggen