26th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

Making Molecular Separations More Sustainable

Organizers: Boelo Schuur, Associate Professor, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands; Robert Giraud, The Chemours Company, Wilmington, Delaware, USA

The sustainability of the chemistry enterprise depends on the development and adoption of sustainable separations technology. Incumbent separations technology (distillation) is too energy intensive, and often too capital intensive, to allow sustainable recovery of organic solvents or of components from dilute aqueous solution. Today’s industrial reliance on distillation accounts for over 40% of the energy consumption and over 50% of the capital investment of chemical processes. Sholl and Lively (Nature, 2016) note this equates to 10-15% of global energy use. Without sustainable separations technology, companies often incinerate solvents and discharge wastewater after conventional treatment. In both cases, the material value of the streams is lost, and life cycle impact is worsened. Furthermore, the loss of valuable components from dilute aqueous solution is a major threat to the sustainability of new biorefineries and a significant concern when carrying out organic reactions in water. Closing the loop requires new solutions.

The ACS GCI Chemical Manufacturers Roundtable has led the development of a technology roadmap highlighting key research, development, and demonstration needs to accelerate industrial application of sustainable alternative separation (AltSep) processes. Like the AltSep roadmap, this symposium will focus on advances in solid mass separating agent (MSA) process technology (i.e., membrane separation and adsorption). To enable meaningful progress toward a circular economy, the symposium will concentrate on two key topics: (1) recovery of organic solvents and (2) recovery from dilute aqueous solution. By bringing together people interested in these two topics, needs and opportunities can be discussed to lay the groundwork for further research advances and industrial adoption. The session will close with a panel discussion to promote interaction between the speakers and the audience as well as among the speakers.

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