Published in the journal Science researchers have created a new membrane that separates closely related molecules and is far sturdier than others. This newly designed material is bound to lead to lowered chemical processing costs and use in other applications of separation.
Separating chemicals has been estimated to consume around 10 percent of the world’s energy production. In creating fresh water up to 60 percent of the energy cost is used to separate substances from the pure water. This particular membrane is the culmination research starting in the 1990’s and is focused on separating xylenes, an organic compound family, from each other.
The main problem with separating these compounds is that each has very similar properties, in fact the mass and boiling points of each are exactly the same throughout the family. Even in physical size, “They differ in size by a tenth of a nanometer.” To further complicate the matter, researchers were looking for a process that is feasible at room temperature to further reduce the energy costs.
The final membrane begins with a commercial polymer that is spun into hollow fibers, linked together into mats, and then heated until only a carbon fiber membrane remains. From tests the researchers have found the membrane uses 10 – 20 times less energy than common methods of separating xylenes.
Click here for the full article by Umair Irfan.
In steam producing boilers high temperatures and pressures increase the likelihood for corrosion and failure from said damage. The main culprit in this situation comes during the shutdown process, as pressure drops air enters the boiler and oxygen within the air reacts with the metal boiler causing weaknesses and pits in the metal. These small weaknesses can turn into leaks quickly requiring immediate shutdown.
To solve the problem of oxygen entering the system a nitrogen blanket can be installed. This is a system which fills the boiler system with nitrogen before dumping the pressure to eliminate air ingress, nitrogen is non-reactive in the system avoiding further pitting or corrosion. Supplying nitrogen for a blanket can come from bottled sources, liquid supplies, or through pressure swing adsorbtion.
Click here for the full article by Brad Buecker.
Engineered bacteria is beginning to streamline biofuel productions. The bacteria being used is a strain of E. coli that has been adapted to withstand liquid salt solutions used for breaking down plant matter into sugars. As these cells adapt better to this type of environment, biofuel processing will no longer need to remove the liquid salts from the mixture before introducing the bacteria, the process would be a “one pot method.”
Yields are currently significantly lower as the tests are using less pure sugar than other processes. Further refining of the E. coli strain will hopefully boost the returns seen from this vastly easier method.
Currently, we have only engineered the strain to digest cellulose so it can use the resulting glucose to grow and make the biofuel,” explains Mukhopadhyay. “We can also engineer it to digest hemicellulose, another large component of plant biomass so that it can use the resulting xylose for growth and production also!”
Click here for the full article by ChemicalProcessing.
Eccentric disc pumps work to pump liquids by spinning an off-center disc inside of a pump housing. As the disc spins around inside the housing two low pressure and two high pressure zones are formed. These opposite high and low pressure zones move fluid through the pump. Because the volumes of these pressure zones is known, a constant, regular, measured flow rate can be achieved by varying the speed of the pumps spinning. This consistent flow is necessary for accurate chemical processing or distributors.
Because eccentric disc pumps are by design seal-less, fluids that would react with or corrode common seal materials are able to be pumped through a processing line. By protecting against unintended reactions valuable chemical materials are preserved saving the processing facility in materials costs.
Click here for the full article by Mike Solso.
It is estimated that the oceans hold 4 billion tons of uranium. This amount of uranium would be enough to power the world’s major cities for thousands of years, the trouble is getting it out of the water. Scientists have shown progress on using a material that binds to uranium dioxide in seawater and can later be treated to remove the uranium. This process would entail dragging braided polyethylene fibers coated with amidoxime through the oceans.
The process is still inefficient and expensive, but finding alternatives to uranium ore mining is a necessary step in planning for the future of nuclear energy.
Uranium is only found in seawater at a concentration of 3.3 micrograms per liter, that converts to 1 particle of Uranium to every 3,000,000,000,000,000 particles of the remainder of seawater. The material is inefficient in that only 6 grams of Uranium is adsorbed for every kilogram of the material, or an efficiency of .6% after 8 weeks of collection.
If constant extraction via this method were to be enacted a fleet would need roughly 693,000 kilograms of the material being dragged at all times, just to fuel a single Gigawatt nuclear power plant for the same duration.
Click here for the full article by Jennifer Hackett.
15% of the global energy consumption is spent on chemical processing. These processes aim at purifying certain substances out of mixtures, and the most common method is through heating and distillation. The vast majority of these purifying processes are done on crude oil to separate the various useful hydrocarbons. Alternatives exist for accomplishing this goal while using only 10% of the energy of distillation practices. Little research has been done to fully flesh out these alternatives, though.
Nuclear power is crucial for future generations, and crude oil is running out. Current estimates on the lifespan of our uranium reserves have them expiring within a century. To better fuel our need for energy well into the future, we will need to establish a cost-effective process to separate uranium from seawater. The amount of uranium in the oceans is roughly 0 times the amount we have left in our geological reserves.
Click here for the full article from Nature.com.
GE is taking over waste-water treatment processes for a Chinese coal-to-chemical plant in light of new regulations. The goal of this project is to eliminate any liquid discharge and allow the plant to reuse all water for production.
Under China’s new regulations, including the Water Pollution Action Plan, the New Environmental Protection Law and China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, these plants must eliminate the liquid discharge of waste-water into the environment, and a ZLD system must be installed to obtain a permit for these plants.
The advanced Zero Liquid Discharge technology from GE combines a vapor recompression brine concentrator and a crystallizer for cost-effective environmental protection.
Click here for the full article from Hydrocarbon Processing.