A challenge faced by many chemical processing plants is the high process temperature and high energy consumption. For example, in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) production process, one of the commonly used approaches of concentrating the medicine is by evaporation. This process operates at 100°C and aims to remove 2/3 of the total amount of water from the feed solution. The main issues are:
To overcome these challenges, the membrane – pervaporation system has been developed. The operating principles have been tested at laboratory scale using actual TCM products. The operating temperature can be lowered so that the risk of damage to the active ingredients is reduced. It was computed that an energy saving of 39% can be achieved. The team that designed and developed the system is well-versed with membrane technology and is ready to transfer the know-how and knowledge. They are seeking partners to collaborate and further develop this proof-of-concept for commercial deployment, targeting applications where thermal damage to high value active ingredients are of concern.
The integrated membrane – pervaporation system provides an attractive alternative for the purification and concentration of water-based extracts. The system makes use of proven technologies that are widely deployed in the industry to help reduce implementation risk and cost. It uses widely available commercial hollow fibre ultrafiltration membranes (operating at a low pressure of a few bar) from the water treatment industry to directly process the filtrate and then further concentrate the permeate using pervaporation technique which uses widely available polymeric hollow fibre membranes. With such a system, a lower operating temperature can be used on the feed solution thereby reducing energy footprint and also reducing the risk to thermal damage on the active ingredients in the permeate. The system produces water vapour from the condenser that is downstream to the pervaporate, which can be condensed into distilled water for other applications. The system’s operating parameters can be customised to meet the specific requirements needed to preserve the active ingredients’ functional properties and at the same time balance the overall processing time and energy consumption.
Potential applications include: