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Novel LLC Membrane Economic Analysis Summary



Novel LLC Membrane Economic Analysis

Name: Novel LLC Membrane Economic Analysis
Elevator Pitch: The Innovation Center of the Rockies is seeking a qualified person to construct an economic analysis on a) cost benefits and b) development to commercialize a novel membrane developed at the University of Colorado. This project is compensated through the University of Colorado’s Technology Transfer Office.
Department: Chemical & Biological Engineering, University of Colorado

Please click here for a PDF of the Novel LLC Membrane Economic Analysis Summary

Background
With growing needs in water filtration from drinking water to produced water, commercial interests in water filtration is on the rise. Today, commercial nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) membranes offer little control over effective pore size and distribution. It is to innovations in pore size control and pore uniformity that this technology is generally directed.

Technology
The faculty research team has fabricated a new type of thin-film composite polymer nanofiltration membrane based on lyotropic (i.e., surfactant) liquid crystals (LLCs) that contains 3D-interconnected, ordered, densely packed, nanopores of uniform size, permitting molecular-size-selective separation of water-soluble substrates in the ca. 0.5–2.0 nm range. These membranes selectively filter out molecules that are bigger than the nanopores, while allowing water-soluble molecules smaller than the pores to pass through. The size of the membrane pores can be controlled, and range from 0.9 to 1.5 nm in diameter. The membranes may also be used for separation of certain gaseous mixtures as well, by allowing hydrophilic vapor molecules smaller than the pores to pass through.

Control of pore structure and critical features on the nanometer size regime is a challenge for membrane manufacturers. The ability to perform molecular-size-selective nanofiltration in the 0.5-2.0 nm range with polymer membranes is unprecedented, especially in an aqueous environment. These new membranes have an ideal architecture for very selective filtration; the difference in molecular size between substrate transport through the membrane and complete rejection can be as small as 0.1 nm. The pore size of these nanoporous LLC assemblies can be tuned via modification of the parent LLC monomer. It is also possible to incorporate acidic or basic sites in the walls of the pores to enhance ion rejection and provide an additional means to control the separation properties in a manner that is not available in commercially available polymer membranes.

This new thin-film composite nanofiltration membrane is fabricated by coating an organic casting solution of an LLC monomer, a low volatility hydrophilic solvent for LLC phase formation, and a radical photo-initiator onto a porous, commercially available polymer support substrate. After allowing the volatile organic casting solvent to evaporate, the resulting non-aqueous LLC phase is subjected to UV light to cross-link the ordered, nanoporous top coating. Typically, only one application of the monomer solution is required to generate a ca. 1–5 μm LLC coating layer with 3D-interconnected nanopores. Subsequently flushing out of the nonaqueous hydrophilic phase-forming solvent from the pores with water affords a thin-film composite membrane that exhibits good water flux and excellent molecular-sieving separation properties. These supported polymerized LLC membranes are very robust with respect to storage, stability in water, and mechanical handling.

LLCMembrane LLCMembrane2

Economic Analysis
•Determine cost of coating a substrate with the LLC technology and compare to alternative nanofiltration membrane coatings.
•Determine the value of the LLC technology in terms of its filtration performance versus the alternatives. This will likely include parametric comparisons between the LLC membrane and relevant alternatives.
•Explore breadth of market opportunities/value of flexibility in the marketplace given that the LLC membrane technology as a platform technology that can be engineered for specific applications (charge density, pore size, water affinity, catalytic properties, etc).
•Understand requirements to compare against specifications for various market needs, e.g., for “produced water” from the oil service industry, RO, NF, etc.
•Life of LLC membrane may be longer than conventional membranes because it is charged, which may help in terms of more anti microbial properties, some inorganic feeds.

Milestones
•After the candidate is chosen, they will be expected to provide a more detailed project scope/projected work time within the first 2 weeks
•There will interim progress update meetings as each the researched topics are completed
•Project deliverables are a presentation and report due mid December to be received by the Technology Transfer Office, the faculty and the ICR.

Compensation
•CU Technology Transfer Office will contract directly with the chosen candidate
•Payment schedules will be negotiated with the Technology Transfer Office

Keywords
Economic analysis, water filtration, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis, lyotropic liquid crystals, produced water, membrane manufacturing

To Indicate an Interest or for More Information: Contact Ken Altshuler at (303) 517-1014 or Ken@InnovationCenteroftheRockies.com.  Please include a copy of your resume.