Sustainable Separation Solutions Laboratory @ IISc
The Sustainable Separation Solutions Laboratory is a facility at the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, India led by Dr. Yagnaseni Roy
Basic concept of a separation technology: one or more incoming streams are split into two or more exiting streams by the separation process.
What are separation technologies?
The basic concept of a separation technology is shown in the schematic on the left. One or more streams (called feed streams) enter the separation process and are separated to two or more exiting streams. There are several separation technologies that are important for our everyday lives: the masks that we wear as a precaution against the corona virus are filters to separate any nearby viruses from the air we breathe in. Evaporation of pure water from a salty solution is a separation critical to the lives of people in arid regions with limited freshwater resources.
Separation technologies in industry
As explained above, separation technologies are critical in our daily lives. However, they comprise a major chunk of industrial activities, associated costs and energy requirements. Consider any product that you use from the time you wake up till the end of the day - plastics, paper, pharmaceuticals, soaps and detergents, textiles, and many more - separations typically account for 40-70% of the total cost of the complete manufacture process of the item and cumulatively, separations in various industries add up to 15% of the world’s energy requirements. Separation technologies are responsible for several important processes within the product manufacture scheme, such as extracting the final product from the synthesis medium; treating effluent streams before environmental discharge; recovering materials that can be reused for subsequent manufacture cycles; or isolating valuable intermediate products that can be used in a different industry or sold.
Solvent recovery using pervaporation
Pervaporation is a membrane technology in which certain species in the liquid feed effectively evaporate through the membrane due to the vacuum pressure applied on the permeate side (using a vacuum pump), and the membrane’s selectivity in favour of the permeating components. Consequently, the separation is determined by a combination of the vapor-liquid equilibrium characteristics at the operating conditions and the membrane’s selectivity behaviour. Due to the role of membrane selectivity in allowing selective evaporation, pervaporation is particularly useful for breaking azeotropes, which is traditionally done by extractive distillation, azeotropic distillation, pressure swing distillation, or solvent dehydration using molecular sieves. These conventional techniques suffer from several drawbacks such as complexity, contamination of the final products by a third solvent, and relatively high energy requirement. Pervaporation is currently used at the industry-scale for applications such as ethanol dehydration during the synthesis of biofuels and various chemicals, breaking other azeotropes such as ethanol-ETBE (in the petrochemical industry) and isopropyl alcohol-water (in the food processing and pharmaceutical industries), as well as for the removal of volatile organic compounds from waste water. In our group, we are exploring pervaporation for various new industrial applications relevant to the pharmaceutical industry and biofuel synthesis.
Purification of extracted phytochemicals using membrane processes