A highly efficient, cost-effective syngas and emissions filtration platform technology for cleaner energy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Chemistry


Smart Separations Ltd (SSL) has developed an advanced, cheaper, more efficient and robust filter type to separate micronsized particles. The SSL technology will be used to further develop filters for particulate removal in high temperature energy generating applications such as incineration, gasification and power generation and will result in lower energy costs and cleaner emissions. This proprietary filtration platform technology is based on a novel formation of conical pores within ceramic filters and which can be tailored to suit a wide range of different markets and industrial applications. A variety of low durability technologies are currently used for removal of particulates and chemical pollutants in these and industrial sectors.

With the current lack of efficient, durable, high temperature high-throughput filtration technologies available, alternatives such as wet-scrubbing have been used to circumvent these limitations, but those increase the associated cost and generate further waste. The excellent chemical and thermal resistance of SSL's filters should be well suited to applications in both syngas and flue emissions treatment. It is also possible to integrate particulate and chemicals removal into a single multifunctional system and infrastructure and running costs can therefore be dramatically reduced.

At Surrey, membrane filters will be functionalized, characterized and tested in application. Functionalization will involve a range of approaches, including wash coating with oxidation catalysts (as in car exhausts) and also examination of the potential for involvement of cermets and of ionically conductive ceramics (both stable at high temperatures).

Planned Impact

The programme aims to employ a breakthrough/disruptive approach to offer improvements in energy efficiency and reductions in levels of particulate matter and chemical pollutants compared to prior, conventional systems. It seeks to meet
the challenges in hot gas cleaning for integrated gas combined cycle (IGCC) and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) processes. This is to be achieved via development of a membrane-based ceramic flue gas cleaning technology based on novel advanced ceramic processing techniques.

Such development in IGCC and CCS technologies has the potential for very substantial impact in reducing CO2 emissions and also potentially offers diversification of the nature of raw materials for power generation. The high temperature environment has led to development of ceramic filters for this application but previously reported systems suffer from a non-selective (imperfect) filter bag approach, often in up to 3 stages. The advanced structures achieved by Smart Separations Ltd, the lead partner in this bid, offer the potential to optimise (jointly with the academic partner) ceramic
membrane pore structures for this application (with close control of pore size and hence selectivity in e.g. removing particulates above chosen diameters, and potential for membrane functionalization in terms of oxidation catalysis and of conductivity).

The results of the programme will be made available after any necessary protection of IPR (via patenting) and have clear potential for subsequent communication in high impact scientific journals. The approach will be to highlight demonstrated potential and, with later funding leading to real opportunity for commercialisation, to use the outcomes to demonstrate the potential for fundamental science and engineering to lead though ultimately to high value commercial products which enable new, greener approaches in power generation. The programme is being developed exclusively within the UK and offers potential for real scientific, environmental and financial benefits to the UK's scientific community and wider society, and its exploitation worldwide would serve as a substantial generator of income for UK plc.


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Description High level control of membrane structure was achieved. Thus pore density has been successfully increased, membrane pore cleaning has been optimised and an occasional issue of cracks has been eliminated.

Surrey has devised and introduced approaches leading to surface-functionalized, designer membranes. A bonus of the approach followed is that the resulting ceramic membranes are harder than the purely alumina forms. Catalytic coatings include low cost oxides and, for high temperatures, precious metal additives at low level.

Separate laboratory scale test rigs were designed and commissioned both for near room temperature gas cleansing and for high temperature model effluent gases.

Tuneable catalysis of destruction of pollutant gases has been achieved, with differing membrane chemistry for differing pollutants.

The case for patenting or other IP protection has been considered extensively by both partners. For the moment the detailed findings and processes have bee kept confidential to the partner teams while other studies continue.
Exploitation Route Potential for application in wood stove burners has been identified. The company (Smart Separations Ltd) is continuing to implement markets exploration.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Other

Description Membranes developed during this programme have been being investigated in joint work between Smart Separations and BSRIA (The Building Services Research and Information Association). The specific application has been consideration and assessment in a role associated with wood burner technology (a hot polluted effluent stream, including particulates and pollutant gases). BSRIA specialises in testing, design validation and technology evaluation. This is fully consistent with the project aim of application into the energy technology area. The case for further implementation and testing has been made and the potential for IP protection has been explored. Results and key processes are currently in-house confidential to the partner company and university.
Sector Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Joint working with Smart Separations Ltd under an InnovateUK/EPSRC contract 
Organisation Smart Separations Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Surrey introduces catalytic and redox active ceramic coatings, with sometimes additional precious metal trace catalyst particles. This involves formulation, chemical processing and detailed materials characterisation. The project aimed to produce active thin ceramic microfilters to cleanse polluted gas streams, both at high and low temperatures. Experimental rigs to test the functionalized microfilters in those applications were designed and implemented at Surrey, led by Prof Slade and Dr Watson
Collaborator Contribution SSL have patented protocols and properties associated with the fabrication of ceramic microfilters, which are based on initially pure alumina ceramics. The project aimed to introduce functionalized coatings. SLL were involved in the development of protocols leading to chemically more complex microfilters and to evaluation of their ceramic properties. SSL placed some of their key equipment with the Surrey team to enable the maximum cross-talk between SSL and Surrey scientists in the development of functionalised microfilters. This equipment included designer troughs for film deposition, bespoke lapping machinery for initial film treatment, and a metallurgical microscope for detailed computer-based imaging of the microstructural aspects of variously produced ceramics.
Impact The findings under this programme are being considered for additional protection of newly generated IP. The programme is multidisciplinary containing contributory aspects of: Ceramics fabrication (materials science);Coatings and introduction of catalysis (chemistry); and Associated test unit design and implementation (chemical engineering).
Start Year 2016