SuMEMS Membrane based solutions

Project SuMEMS starts piloting phase

Since 1 November 2017, the research project SuMems, initiated by the pharmaceutical companies Janssen and Ajinomoto Bio-pharma services (former Omnichem) and the OEM company InOpSys, is running in the framework of the Catalisti program “valorization of side streams”. The project works on the development of innovative membrane-based solutions for the sustainable and economic treatment of the typical solvent-rich, and often very alkaline waste waters, that are currently incinerated externally. Optimal (hybrid) processing will allow to recuperate valuable components as precious metals or metal catalysts, and to send the purified waste streams to the existing on-site wastewater treatment plants.
Research partners VITO and KU Leuven have already identified suitable membranes and membrane processes for the dehydration of salty Non-Recyclable Solvent streams (NRS), and for the Pd removal from a strongly alkaline water-based waste stream and from a methanol-based mother liquor. Pervaporation with hydrophilic ceramic membranes proved to be very efficient for the treatment of NRS streams. The alkaline wastewater streams can be efficiently purified by nanofiltration with an alkaline resistant polymeric membrane (HydraCore or MPF-34), while a functionalized ceramic nanofiltration membrane of VITO (FunMem®) turned out a very good membrane for the metal removal of the methanol mother liquor.
Currently, all efforts are dedicated to the preparation of three piloting campaigns at the industrial partners later this year, using the existing pilots at Janssen and VITO. Based on these larger-scale experiments, the robustness of the processes and the value of the retentate streams can be properly assessed, while the business cases can be properly evaluated.
Further research in the project is focused on generating generic data, allowing to define a workable decision tree for the membrane-based (hybrid) treatment of similar challenging waste streams.

Concept of the SuMems project (Photo: Vito)