Sustainable membrane technology-based solutions for solvent-rich wastewater treatment


A lot of research effort has been (and still is being) devoted to the development of  solvent-resistant membrane technologies, as they are promising energy- and waste efficient unit processes to separate mixtures down to a molecular level. However, few efforts or projects related to solvent-resistant membrane technology find their way into industrial-scale applications. This can be explained by the fact that this is a relatively recent technology with a uncertainty for scalability and long-term robustness (related to stability and lifetime of the membranes, membrane fouling, solute rejection, etc.). In addition, only a relatively limited number of solvent-resistant membranes are commercially available from a limited number of suppliers. The initiating partners in this project want to develop new and sustainable membrane-based technology solutions for the treatment of solvent-rich waste waters. The project will be focused on a rather limited selection of specific streams/cases (see below) to increase the success rate of finding and implementing a sustainable solution on (semi) industrial scale.

The ultimate goal is to close material loops and participate in the circular economy.

By the end of the project, the goal is to have:

  1. principle solution (concept) in the form of a flow chart on how to scale a solvent-resistant membrane filtration process succesfully and how to deal with the pitfalls of upscaling;
  2. treatment solutions, using membrane technology, ready for application on (semi-)industrial scale for three specific cases:
    a. Non-Recyclable Solvent (NRS) streams: two well defined waste streams (one: pH 14, containing acetone, mesityloxide and toluene traces; a second stream containing MeOH and toluene traces) and one varying waste stream (approximately 20% water and 20-30% methanol along with a variation of other solvents)
    b. Removal of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) from solvent-rich waters:
    c. Removal of metals (for example palladium) from solvent-rich waste waters.

The proposed solutions for cases a) and b) should use membrane technology (possibly in combination with other pre- and/or post-treatment technologies if required), since the partners wish to expand their knowledge base on membrane technology to apply it for other waste streams in the future. For case c), the partners would like to use membrane technology, but are open to explore other technologies as well.