Low-Cost Zeolite Membrane Modules for Solvent DehydrationEPA Contract Number: 68D03013
Title: Low-Cost Zeolite Membrane Modules for Solvent Dehydration
Investigators: Higgins, Richard J.
Small Business: CeraMem Corporation
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Project Period: April 1, 2003 through September 1, 2003
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2003) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , SBIR - Nanotechnology , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
A number of very high-volume liquid chemicals form azeotropes with water and can be dehydrated to required purity levels only through the use of entrainers or drying agents. The handling and disposal of these additional chemicals present significant environmental risks. Recently, membrane pervaporation using both polymeric and inorganic membrane modules has been commercialized as a method to dehydrate organic solvents that form azeotropes with water. Although pervaporation is an environmentally superior method of dehydrating industrial chemicals, its commercial application is inhibited by the relative economics of the process. For polymeric pervaporation membranes, process productivity and associated operating costs are negatively impacted by the limited performance capabilities of organic membrane and module materials. For the recently introduced high-performance inorganic pervaporation membrane devices, capital costs are extremely high.
The objective of CeraMem Corporation's research project is to combine high-performance zeolite membranes with low-cost inorganic membrane module technology to develop pervaporation devices that will have both low capital costs and low operating costs for azeotropic solvent dehydration. In Phase I, small membrane elements that have identical materials and configuration to conceptual large-membrane-area devices will be fabricated, and their pervaporation properties will be demonstrated.
If the Phase I research project is successful, a subsequent Phase II project would include development of pervaporation membrane modules incorporating membrane areas of 0.12 m2 to approximately 1 m2. The solvent dehydration and stability characteristics of these modules would be demonstrated in in-house tests lasting up to several months. A successful Phase II project would serve as a jumping-off point for initial commercialization of the technology and the development of larger membrane modules with membrane areas of between 10 m2 and 20 m2 per element. Such modules would provide greatly reduced capital and operating costs as well as maximal environmental benefits for solvent dehydration in the organic chemical manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and petrochemical industries.