Up to 15% of energy used globally is in the separation and purification of industrial products, such as gases, fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and water. As well as being very energy intensive, separations can be extremely costly – accounting for between 40% and 70% of capital and operating costs in many companies.

At Bath, we are focused on developing and deploying advanced separations technologies across a wide range of sectors. Bringing together significant expertise in fundamental investigation and materials development, with high profile, industry-led projects, we are exploring and developing new ways to make separation processes more cost and energy efficient.

The work we are conducting in separations offers huge potential for many sectors, including petrochemical, biotechnology, healthcare, food processing, formulation, water and gas treatment, and manufacturing. Our work can be categorised into three main themes:


Membranes offer a compelling alternative to conventional energy-hungry separation techniques used in industry such as distillation. They can also be used to extract valuable resources from waste streams, which can then be reused elsewhere.

Internationally renowned for our work on membranes, we are involved in everything from the molecular investigation of nano-materials, to the manufacture of novel new membranes on site using our highly specialised equipment. Membranes developed at Bath are helping to improve separation processes across many industries, including food processing, water treatment and gas separation.

Example projects

  • a new membrane to improve the separation of the compound sterol from orange juice, allowing it to be reused as a dietary supplement to reduce cholesterol
  • smart transdermal membranes to control the release of drugs into the skin in a non-invasive, programmable way
  • novel contaminant-resistant membranes capable of producing pure hydrogen from organic waste
  • fluid dynamic gauging technology to improve the cleaning of membranes, a system now widely adopted by other universities and industry

Academics focusing on membranes


Our chemical engineers are developing innovative materials for use in adsorption processes in industry.

These materials offer enormous potential to improve separations efficiency and reduce energy consumption and cost, in areas such as gas separation, soil remediation, water management and removing contaminants from process streams.

Often our work begins with molecular simulation to gain insight into the adsorption and diffusion phenomena of different materials, such as the uptake of gas.

We then use those insights to find and characterise the most promising materials, or to develop new ones, to optimise adsorption processes or enable new separations.

Example projects

  • Novel nanoporous materials that enable the adsorption and safe storage of hydrogen for use in transport and grid systems
  • New hollow fibre technology that can remove, recover and separate contiminants from gas, and drastically reduce energy consumption
  • Advanced adsorption technology capable of removing contaminants and killing bacteria, to clean and recycle air more effectively on aircraft

Academics focusing on adsorption


Modelling is an integral part of our separations research, and we use it to speed up the testing and development of membrane and adsorption technologies.

Our expertise is multi-scale, with some engineers working on molecular modelling to gain new insight into how separations materials perform at a nano level. Others are testing, and contributing to the development of, advanced membrane and adsorption technologies at an industrial scale. Less costly than the equivalent laboratory work, modelling allows us to explore separations problems from uniquely useful perspectives.

Example projects

  • advanced molecular simulation tools to predict the physical properties of fluids in the chemical industry; for example, VLE for oil and gas clients
  • computer simulation to explore the behaviour of molecules in confined spaces and design nanoporous materials for water remediation and treatment; for example, micropolutants recovery via activated carbons or functional polymers
  • study of adsorption-induced flexibility in zeolites and metal-organic frameworks and its exploitation in industrial gas separation
  • multi-scale simulation study to assess metal-organic frameworks for hydrogen purification

Academics focusing on modelling