Last month, we welcomed engineering and science researchers from the Universities of Bath and Bristol to learn how to use our isotopic exchange rig.

The experimental apparatus is unique to the Department of Chemical Engineering at Bath. It studies the isotopic exchange of gases on materials and can perform breakthrough separation experiments. The bespoke rig measures gas exchange processes over wide ranges of temperatures, flow and pressure. This is not achievable using existing available methods. It is also connected to Mass Spectroscopy, which makes it diverse in its applications.

We organised the training workshop in response to growing demand from researchers to develop the technical expertise to use the apparatus. Gas separation is an important and beneficial process in industry. It is used in hydrogen purification, waste gas treatment, and coal gasification plants amongst other applications. Being able to use this rig will allow us to investigate gas separation properties in the novel materials/membranes we, or our collaborators, synthesise.

The rig was designed and set up by Hiden Isochema Ltd but has remained out of use in the Department for some time. We invited Richard Murden and Matthew Powner, engineers from the company, to lead the two-day, in-depth session and share their expertise with the trainees.

Researchers and technical staff were given hands-on training using the bespoke apparatus for gas breakthrough testing. Under supervision, they learnt how to run breakthrough separation experiments and perform subsequent data analysis. The trainers also demonstrated the real application of CO₂ over N₂ on zeolites and introduced the latest gas storage and separations manufactures.

The training covered:

  • basic theory of gas separation
  • sample loading
  • measurement setup
  • mass spectrometer setup
  • software overview and experiment programming
  • data management and export

Dr Mi Tian, who organised the day, said: "It was a great chance for attendees from similar research backgrounds to come together. We had time to exchange ideas, explore common interests and discuss how we can use the rig in current and future research projects. The trainers' tips and suggestions on experimental design were invaluable and contributed to the success of the workshop. We have already received two collaborative proposals and I’m confident that we’ll see more project opportunities come out of this in the future."

The training has had a lasting positive outcome for the Department as technical staff and researchers now have the expertise to perform experiments using the rig. We will also be able to run in-house training sessions for researchers from the University and further afield.

The training workshop was organised by Dr Mi Tian. It was co-funded by the Research Development Fund (RDF) and our Department of Chemical Engineering.