Andrew Livingston

31 Aug 2012

Professor Andrew Livingston is currently Head of Department at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, a position he has held since 2008. He obtained a BEng (Hons) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand and after spending two years as Company Chemical Engineer at Canterbury Frozen Meat Co. Ltd, New Zealand, he undertook a PhD in Chemical Engineering at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, which he completed in 1989. He joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial as a lecturer in 1990. Professor Livingston is interested in research into and development of novel technologies for manufacturing chemicals/ (bio)pharmaceuticals. His research team works with polymer synthesis, formation of polymeric and ceramic membranes, design, fabrication and testing of membrane elements, and modelling and understanding membrane transport processes. Recently they have been working extensively on the use of membrane separations in solvent systems, where they are able to provide new routes to catalyst recycle, product separation, and solvent operations.


Organic liquids - a new frontier for nanofiltration

Organic liquids are ubiquitous in chemical science based industries, which range in scale from refining to pharmaceutical production. It is generally accepted that 40-70% of capital and operating costs in these industries are dedicated to separations; and a substantial fraction of this cost is related to processing of organic liquids, both as product streams and solvents. Membrane technology has the potential to provide game changing alternatives to conventional concentration and purification technologies such as distillation, liquid extraction, adsorption and chromatography. In order to achieve this potential, membrane modules must meet several challenges. They must be stable in organic solvents, offer attractive fluxes and rejections for systems of interest, and give reliable and predictable service lifetime and performance. The obvious benefits of membrane processing have been apparent for many years, and have attracted research, development and commercialisation efforts from academic groups, end users, and membrane suppliers. In the last few years these efforts have resulted in a growing range of commercially available membranes, and an increasing number of industrial applications. Organic Solvent Nanofiltration (OSN) is finally emerging as a new frontier for membrane technology.

This presentation will describe research and development on membranes for OSN. Several polymers (polyimides, polyaniline, polybenzimidazole) have been used to create membranes stable in organic solvents. A key step is the post-formation chemical crosslinking of the polymers, which imparts stability even in harsh polar solvents such as DMF, THF and DMSO. Recently developed membranes include thin film composites based on interfacial polymerisation (TFC-IP). By using inert supports, TFC-IP membranes having good flux and rejection in polar aprotic solvents have been developed. A further innovation is the development of OSN membranes that can withstand highly basic and acidic environments, which further widens the scope of the technology.

There are a growing number of applications of OSN to industrial separation problems, and some will be outlined, together with the advantages OSN brings to commercial systems. Osmotic pressure, concentration polarisation, and prediction of process performance for organic liquid systems will be discussed. Finally, the attributes of “ideal“ membranes, and likely limitations on system performance will be outlined.