New KU Leuven Research Projects on Biogas Upgrading and Upscaling of Membrane Production

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New KU Leuven Research Projects on Biogas Upgrading and Upscaling of Membrane Production

cMACS - KU Leuven


The cMACS Membrane Technology Group led by prof. Vankelecom of the KU Leuven is happy to announce the start of several exciting membrane research projects.

The ‘MAMBO Biogas Project’ focuses on the upgrading of raw biogas into biomethane and high-value proteins for fish feed. Anaerobic digestion transforms organic waste streams into biogas, currently mostly used in combined heat and power production. Purification of biogas into biomethane can open up a range of more economic as ecological applications, including gas grid injection and animal feed production. It is critical for such biogas upgrading to be simple, cheap and robust to render sustainable waste conversion to biogas economically viable.

The KU Leuven earlier developed a new membrane type consisting of a quasi-inert material with record-high CH4/CO2 selectivities. In contrast to current industrial practices, such membranes have the potential for single-stage upgrading of even heavily contaminated biogas to sufficiently clean biomethane. To make these membranes practically applicable, fluxes still need to be increased substantially and membrane (module) preparation facilitated. To reach the required biomethane specs for the different end-uses in a cheap and robust way, hybrid processes will be considered involving adsorption.

One of the most promising added-value uses of biomethane is the production of microbial protein for animal feed via methanotrophic bacteria. This leads to higher economic impact and contributes to making protein supply for agriculture more sustainable. The integration of the treated biogas leaving the membrane/adsorption process and the methanotrophic culture in the bioreactor will be investigated and steered to control the yields and amino acid profile of the animal feed. The loop will be closed by coupling biogas upgrading and protein production directly to fish culturing. Critical input will also be provided from pilot-scale tests in which sufficient amounts of treated biogas will be converted to feed full-scale fish cultures.

The MAMBO Biogas project will be steered by a large group of companies and federations across the biogas value chain and is a collaboration between the KU Leuven (coordinator), UGent, Inagro and VUB.


Foto Biogas reactor.


Membrane development is the main expertise of the Membrane Technology Group of prof. Ivo Vankelecom. In response to continued interest of several companies to upscale their membrane production and requests for larger samples for on-site testing , a continuous pilot-scale membrane production line was installed. Besides typical production steps such as casting, phase inversion and drying, the line also enables UV-curing and spray coating. Linked to several new projects, like Mambo and SmartDetox (elimination of micronutrients from water), the research group now tackles the scaling-up of different types of membranes. Some examples of such patented membranes are acid/alkaline resistant membranes for redox flow batteries and water treatment, solvent and chlorine resistant epoxy-based membranes and UV-cross linked membranes for solvent-tolerant (STNF) and solvent resistant (SRNF) applications. With these technologies, the group hopes to deliver durable filtration solutions for demanding streams, such as water and process waste from the food, chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

Foto Pilootlijn.



Projectname: MAMBO biogas project

Goal: Research Projects on Biogas Upgrading and Upscaling of Membrane Production

Consortium: KU Leuven, UGent, Inagro en VUB

Coordinator: KU Leuven

Start: 1 October 2020

Duration: 4 years

Subsidy: FWO-SBO

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