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Membrane test facilities @ VITO: from flexible lab units till mobile ATEX/GMP-certified plug-and-play pilots
With a wide range of flexible bench-top (1-100 L scale) as well as mobile pilot test facilities (>100 L), VITO is in an excellent position to develop and demonstrate water- as well as solvent-based cross-flow membrane filtration processes under industrially realistic circumstances and at a relevant scale, either in-house or on site in the industrial setting.
VITO’s pressure-driven test installations (12 lab units, 6 pilots), all executed in stainless steel and fully instrumented with real-time process monitoring and data acquisition on PC or PLC, are flexible in regard of membrane/module types (polymeric/ceramic, flat/spiral/tubular), operating modes (regular filtration, total recirculation and diafiltration, batch vs feed-bleed) and parameter windows (generally till 80°C – 35 bar, and beyond).
Of particular relevance to the process industry are VITO’s three ATEX/GMP-certified pilot installations which have been especially designed for demonstration of solvent-based membrane separation processes relevant to chemical, food, biorefinery and even pharmaceutical industries. Great care was devoted to safety aspects, materials choice and cleanability. These pilot units allow for testing of all relevant industrial module types, including spiral-wound polymeric elements and multi-channel ceramic membranes, at pressures up to 45 bar and temperatures up to 130°C, hence offering an excellent tool for technology demonstration or small production campaigns, either on site or in VITO’s dedicated pilot zone.
These unique ATEX/GMP pilots, shown below, have been used in recent years for various succesful customer projects involving molecular scale membrane separation of solvent based as well as aqueous process and side streams, for instance recovery of valuable APIs from a distillation residue using polymeric OSN modules (TRL 7), purifiation of a key compound of a commercial anti-diabetes drug in a cleanroom environment using polymeric aqueous NF membranes (TRL 8), solvent-free high temperature separations of various viscous hydrocarbon streams using ceramic UF/NF membranes (TRL 6), size-based fractionation of lignin degradation products into more defined fractions using modified ceramic NF membranes (TRL 6), and acetone recovery from olein miscella using both polymeric OSN and grafted ceramic membranes (TRL 6).