Novel Zeolite/polymer composite membrane

Period of Performance: 02/03/2016 - 11/21/2016


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

124 Goldenthal Court Array
Cary, NC 27519
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Research Institution

The Ohio State University
1330 Kinnear Road
Columbus, OH 43212
Institution POC


Light olefins such as ethylene and propylene are very important high volume commodity chemicals with production value more than $200B. These are used as building blocks for many essential chemicals and products. A major portion of the capital and operating cost in olefin production is for the olefin-paraffin separation by cryogenic distillation, which is highly energy and capital intensive consuming >0.12 quad/year of energy at a cost of $3B/yr. Alternative technologies for energy efficient olefin/paraffin separation will have tremendous impact on the cost of olefin production and ultimately on a variety of consumer products such as plastics and textiles. In the proposed approach, the energy requirement of the olefin/paraffin separation process will be reduced by using highly olefin selective zeolite membranes capable of operating at ambient temperatures. Furthermore, the proposed effort is aimed at reducing cost of zeolite membranes by synthesizing thin yet defect free zeolite membrane on flexible polymeric supports amenable for conventional low-cost polymer membrane fabrication technology. Proposed Phase I project will develop and demonstrate performance of a novel flexible zeolite on polymer composite membrane for energy efficient separation of olefins from paraffins with >50% reduction in energy requirements. The proposed structure will allow extremely thin zeolite layers of < 1 micron thickness increasing flux rate. Membrane selectivity will be increased by using facilitating cations in the zeolite structure as well as by sealing defects, if present, by an over-layer of thin highly permeable polymer coating. Costs will be lowered by an order of magnitude by rapid synthesis of zeolite Y/polymer membranes using conventional polymer membrane and module fabrication technology. Techno-economic analysis will be conducted to determine large scale manufacturing costs and feasibility of the proposed zeolite membrane-based process for propane/propylene separation. This project will develop an energy efficient flexible zeolite/polymer composite membrane-based process for low-cost olefins separation. Commercialization of this technology will reduce cost of producing commodity olefins such as ethylene and propylene which will ultimately impact a variety of consumer products such as common plastics and textiles. Commercial applications and other benefits: The novel flexible zeolite on polymer composite membrane concept will reduce cost of olefin production which will further impact several consumer products in the downstream manufacturing processes. This concept will also spur other niche zeolite applications such as hydrocarbon isomer separation, ethanol dehydration by pervaporation membranes, natural gas liquid recovery, and CO2 separation from flue gases realizing long-awaited promise of zeolites.