From membrane material synthesis to fabrication and function (SynFabFun)

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

Membranes offer exciting opportunities for more efficient, lower energy, more sustainable separations and even entirely new process options - and so are a valuable tool in an energy constrained world. However, high performance polymeric, inorganic and ceramic membranes all suffer from problems with decay in performance over time, through either membrane ageing (membrane material relaxation) and/or fouling (foreign material build-up in and/or on the membrane), and this seriously limits their impact.
Our vision is to create membranes which do not suffer from ageing or fouling, and for which separation functionality is therefore maintained over time. We will achieve this through a combination of the synthesis of new membrane materials and fabrication of novel membrane composites (polymeric, ceramic and hybrids), supported by new characterisation techniques.
Our ambition is to change the way the global membrane community perceives performance. Through the demonstration of membranes with immortal performance, we seek to shift attention away from a race to achieve ever higher initial permeability, to creation of membranes with long-term stable performance which are successful in industrial application.

Planned Impact

This project will have a significant impact on the academic and industrial membrane communities, through the development of 'immortal membranes'. These will overcome the problems and limitations of currently available membranes: loss of performance due to aging and fouling, the constant need to replace and dispose/recycle used membranes (representing a negative environmental impact compared to avoiding this altogether), and the lack of stable membranes for a wide range of industrially important applications. The next generation immortal membranes produced in this programme grant represent the key to unlocking the as yet unfulfilled green separations promise of membranes across a wide range of industries and applications. This will enable new products and services to be created that are currently not possible (such as self-healing ceramic membranes). Our state-of-the-art membrane fabrication processes, membranes and membrane characterisation techniques will also have direct benefit and impact on the academic community. So that this proposal is truly successful, our impact plan enables communication of outputs and engagement of stakeholders from membrane manufacturers through to membrane end users and the academic community.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Different classes of membranes have been investigated, including those made from polymeric, ceramic and composite materials. Membrane based separation processes have several potential advantages over other separation technologies, a key one being reduced energy use, and it is for these reasons that research on improving and developing new membranes is important. For polymeric membranes key advances have been made in understanding the molecular structure of the polymers, and the effects this has on gas permeation through the membranes. The effect of ageing on the polymer membranes has been uncovered and mitigation measures developed that allow permeation to be retained for longer periods of time. The origins of selectivity in gas transport in polymer membranes has been investigated and new ways of improving selectivity for specific and desired chemical species have been developed. Ceramic membrane systems have been studied and new systems developed that can be used for permeation of carbon dioxide and oxygen - key gases used and created in industrial processes which require new separation methods. Ceramic membranes can suffer from cracking during service, and new oxide-based materials have been developed with the capacity to "self-heal" these cracks, which can extend membrane life-times. Membranes made from materials that combine organic and inorganic components are an intermediate class of membranes, often termed "composite", which can give novel separation capabilities. Materials of interest include boron nitride nanotubes and metal-organics frameworks (MOFs). These composite membranes have been studied and performance measures developed for nanofiltration and anti-fouling behaviour.
Exploitation Route The findings from the research undertaken have direct application for a range of industry sectors and technologies. Industry sectors and their specific interests include: pharmaceuticals for separation of drug precursors and products; water treatment for reductions in fouling of water purification membranes; food production for reduced fouling in sieving and separation processes; energy systems with new membranes in flow-batteries and fuel cells; chemical process industries for ways to selectively remove carbon dioxide and separate hard to distinguish hydrocarbon products, e.g. ethane and ethylene.
The outcomes provide a strong demonstration of the UK's capabilities in membrane research and provide a solid foundation of understanding and capability for future research, both industrial and academic, as membrane technologies continue to be developed and deployed.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description Several industry sectors and companies have been directly involved with the SynFabFun Programme Grant. The types of companies include: membrane material manufacturers and module producers; pharmaceutical companies; water treatment companies; food production; energy systems providers; chemical process industries. Several of the ideas and findings are included in on-going intellectual property developments, either as patent applications or licenses to potential users - most of these are still at a confidential stage and details are not available.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Royal Society policy briefing document, "The potential and limitations of using carbon dioxide", Prof Ian Metcalfe contributor.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/low-carbon-energy-programme/potential-limitations-ca...
 
Description Royal Society policy briefing, "Options for producing low-carbon hydrogen at scale"
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/low-carbon-energy-programme/hydrogen-production/
 
Title Pressure relaxation 
Description Pressure change is used to look at surface exchange and diffusion in materials 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Generating high quality data for novel materials 
 
Title Dataset for "3D Printed Contactor for Enhanced Oil Droplets Coalescence" 
Description This dataset includes all the original data for this project including the design of the 3D contractors, detailed methodology of preparation and characterisation results, raw data of filtration tests. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Dataset for "3D Printed Fouling-Resistant Composite Membranes" 
Description This dataset reports the permeance recovery ratio values for flat and wavy composite membranes that were tested by using bovine serum albumin (BSA) solution in a cross-flow ultrafiltration setup. The transmembrane pressure was regulated at 1 bar and the cross-flow Reynolds number (Re) varied between 400 and 1000. In comparison to the flat composite membrane, the wavy membrane showed superior performance in terms of pure water permeance (PWP) (10% higher) and permeance recovery ratio (87% vs 53%) after the first filtration cycle at Re = 1000. Prolong testing showed that the wavy membrane could retain approximately 87% of its initial PWP after 10 complete filtration cycles. The dataset includes the all original data that were generated from this experimental work and also images that were taken by scanning electron microscope (SEM) and digital microscope. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Dataset for "3D Printed composite membranes with enhanced anti-fouling behaviour" 
Description This dataset includes all the original data for this project including the design of the 3D membrane support, detailed methodology of membrane preparation and characterisation results, raw data of the filtration tests. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Dataset for "Fouling Resistant 2D Boron Nitride Nanosheet - PES Nanofiltration Membranes" 
Description A novel fouling-resistant nanofiltration mixed-matrix membrane was obtained by the incorporation of 2D boron nitride nanosheets (BNNS) in polyethersulfone (PES). The addition of just 0.05 wt% of BNNS into the PES matrix led to a 4-fold increase in pure water permeance with a 10% decrease in the rejection of the dye Rose Bengal; up to 95% rejection of humic acid and nearly 100% flux recovery over two cycles in cross-flow fouling tests without the need for chemical cleansing. This performance is attributed to the uniform distribution of the BNNS in the PES matrix, observed via Raman mapping, and the surface chemistry and structure of the BNNS, which hydrophilised the polymer matrix and reduced its surface roughness. The low amount of BNNS filler needed to render the mixed-matrix membrane fouling-resistant opens the way to its use in waste-water treatment applications where organic fouling remains a major challenge. A summary of the data analysis, plotted figures and microscopy images can be found in this dataset. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Dataset for "Surface-Controlled Water Flow in Nanotube Membranes" 
Description This dataset includes raw data for the results presented in the article "Surface-Controlled Water Flow in Nanotube Membranes" and specifically for permeance data (Figure 5 in the article), Raman and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) (Figure 2 in the article), surface zeta potential calculation and additional micrography as applied to carbon nanotube (CNT) and carbon nitride nanotube (CNNT) membranes. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Dataset for ''High Flux Thin-Film Nanocomposites with Embedded Boron Nitride Nanotubes for Nanofiltration'' 
Description This dataset relates to the nanocomposite membranes discussed in the paper "High Flux Thin-Film Nanocomposites with Embedded Boron Nitride Nanotubes for Nanofiltration". It contains the raw data for the membranes' surface zeta potential, salts rejection, permeance, chlorine resistance, contact angle, fouling tests, humic acid rejection, and methylene blue rejection, as well as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) data. In addition, this data contains transmission electron microscopy (TEM), field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) and optical microscopy data supporting and supplemental to those presented in the paper. Viewing of the paper is necessary for a full understanding of the dataset. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Description Advisory Board Meeting - Feb 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting of Advisory Board (AB) of industrialists and academics from UK, Europe and USA. Presentations given on progress of projects. Advice by AB given on future research directions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Advisory Board meeting - Feb 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting of Advisory Board (AB) of industrialists and academics from UK, Europe and USA. Presentations given on progress of projects. Advice by AB given on future research directions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Dupont Teijin Films 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Meetings and presentations to representatives of Dupont Teijin Films. Industrial interest in developing and exploiting polymer-based membranes, with future possibility of licensing or other intellectual property exploitation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description EPSRC showcase event - Science for a Succesful Nation 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An event organised by EPSRC to showcase its investments in research for benefits to UK society. The SynFabFun project was selected as one of the exhibits, and presented a display of membrane technology providing lower energy routes to material separation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/synfabfun/newsevents/synfabfunshowcasedatepsrc-scienceforasuccessfulnatio...
 
Description January 2017 Advisory Board Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting of the Advisory Board
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description LiveInTheLab - interviews with research group members 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Videos created and up-loaded to group Facebook site. Increased traffic on the site, with multiple views.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.facebook.com/AppIonTransport/
 
Description Panasonic 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Meetings and presentations to discuss polymeric membranes, and industrial applications. Further liaison and engagement planned.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description SynFabFun launch event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Launched the Programme Grant at Imperial College.

This was a full day focussed on engagement with interested industrialists which generated a lot of interaction.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015