Wastewater is a multicomponent and multiphase oil-water mixture. The state-of-the-art membrane is made of one material and has one pore size. As a result, each membrane has only one “selectivity” and cannot separate the multicomponent and multiphase mixture in a single processing step. Although membrane technology in general is more energy efficient compared to conventional separation methods, the multi-step processing increases the cost, energy and physical footprint. Although there is no fundamental hurdle to integrate the multiple membrane separation, i.e., each membrane with different selectivity, into a single-step membrane process, this has not yet been demonstrated.
The project will enable the first demonstrations of a 3D-printed membrane with multiple selectivity for multicomponent and multiphase oil-water separation, which is critical to wastewater treatment in the chemical industry. We anticipate that the proposed process intensification effort will demonstrate: 1) Strong improvement in energy efficiency by enabling an intensified membrane process by reducing pressure and physical size. 2) Significant reduction in capital cost and physical footprint through fabrication of 3D-printed membrane with multiple selectivity. 3) Substantial reduction in waste generation per unit as well as improved process safety due to improved wastewater treatment. This design approach can further translate beyond wastewater separation to include organic/organic systems as well.
In this project, University of Pittsburgh, Lubrizol Corporation and Siemens are working collaboratively. PI Lei Li (Associate Professor, U of Pittsburgh) has extensive expertise in surface science and membrane. Jointly with Lubrizol he has established a state-of-the-art membrane laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, which incorporates 3D-printing technology and various surface coatings into the membrane. Nanoscale Fabrication and Characterization Facility (NFCF) at the U of Pittsburgh provides a variety of fabrication and characterization tools to support the proposed efforts. Co-PI Cliff Kowall (Senior Technical Fellow, Lubrizol Corp) has 44 years of experience including 21 years at Lubrizol, with deep experience in process development, project management and process innovation. He also is adjunct faculty at Pitt with a weekly presence over the past 5 years to focus collaboration between faculty and corporate interests. Further support is provided by the Lubrizol Process Technology Leadership Team consisting of Kowall plus other Engineers in process development. Ravi Aglave (Ph.D. (Chemical Engineering), Siemens Software Systems) provides the technical training and support on the SolidEdge and/or NX CAM software throughout the project period.
Demonstrated robust two-component oil-water separation using hydrogel-coated hydrophilic membranes.
Designed novel SILMs to increase the interfacial area.
Demonstrated three-component/two-phase oil-water separation w/ the 1st-generation integrated 3D-printed membrane.