Department of Chemical Engineering

Developing materials for adsorbing and separating gases

Our researchers developed novel adsorbent materials to optimise gas separation and purification with immediate benefits for industry.

small vials in Gas chromatograph autosampler

Challenge

Gas adsorption and separation has wide-ranging applications, including industrial, medical and environmental. Finding new energy efficient ways to perform gas separation or purification directly benefits companies, allowing them to develop better products and processes whilst meeting today's increasing environmental challenges.

The fundamental research carried out at Bath had a major impact on our initial work on adsorption, and continues to have a significant impact on our ongoing work in advanced adsorbents...

— Managing Director,
MAST Carbon International Ltd

REF submission

This research was part of our REF 2014 submission for Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering.

 

Solution

Our researchers, Professor Barry Crittenden, Dr Tim Mays and Dr Semali Perera from the Department of Chemical Engineering's Centre for Advanced Separations Engineering, have developed novel adsorbent materials for specific gas separation and purification.

They carried out research into obtaining high separation performance in gases but at a very much reduced pressure drop. Low pressure drops are desirable because less energy is consumed to perform each gas separation or purification; in turn, less carbon dioxide associated with primary energy provision is released into the natural environment.

Adsorbents are most commonly available in granular form. Energy is lost through pressure drop, which occurs from skin friction (energy loss as gas flows over material surfaces) and via form drag (energy loss as gas flows through tortuous paths around granular materials).

Form drag is much higher than skin friction in granular materials and so our researchers directed their attention to designing materials that eliminate as much form drag as possible. Specifically, they focused on highly structured materials that comprise straight channels, in the form of hollow fibres or monoliths, thereby eliminating tortuous gas flow paths.

 

Benefits and outcomes

Our research into novel, highly structured materials in the form of hollow fibre and monolithic adsorbents has led to products and processes aimed at energy efficient gas separation and purification, meeting legislative emission limits, creating healthier workplaces, and recovering valuable resources for reuse.

Consequently, our research has led to important business and economic impact in two small-to-medium size enterprises: Nano-Porous Solutions Ltd (n- psl), whose business is developing new products for energy efficient gas separation for environmental and medical applications; and MAST Carbon International Ltd, who supply advanced carbon materials for separations, reactions and environmental protection.