On July 14 we had the factory acceptance test of our first HTGS equipment. Our first customer is CNETE, a major R&D group in Quebec, Canada.
HTGS stands for High Throughput Gas Separation. The HTGS is based on a prototype design from KU Leuven – Prof. Ivo Van Kelecom (where Angels did a post-doc) but it has been significantly improved and automated by the IB-FT team in Berlin. You can see the “original” setup at http://www.biw.kuleuven.be and you can judge by yourself the progress we have made…
What does the HTGS do? Gas separation is a key step in many chemical processes and can be done by using membranes. Membranes are a kind of chemically engineered filters. In order to achieve the best performance in a certain application, it is necessary to optimise the membrane separation properties, which are related to both the membrane composition and the preparation method.
With the HTGS it is possible to test up to 16 different membranes. Up to 5 different gases H2, O2, CH4, CO2 and N2 which can be used individually or in combination (as an extra safety measure, the HTGS excludes dangerous mixtures). The exact same gas composition is fed to all 16 samples, so every membrane sees the same mixture at the same time and under the same conditions. The amount and the composition of the gas mixture that goes through the membranes is measured both qualitatively (what gas) and quantitatively (how much of each gas) by means of a GC (gas chromatograph) and flow meters.
The instrument offers a real competitive advantage to the user because he can develop the best membrane in a much shorter time. And time… is money.
If you look at the picture with the software and you zoom in on the data table you see the “filtering” effect of one membrane (there was only one sample loaded): the initial gas mixture contained 50% CO2 (carbon dioxide) and 50% N2 (Nitrogen gas). The GC measures the composition of the gas that goes through the membrane every 8 minutes. You can see how well the membrane “filters” the gas: after 24 minutes the majority of N2 is rejected and pretty much only CO2 passes through the membrane.
Application? Well we all know CO2 exhaust is a major environmental problem. A lot of R&D is going on to try to capture/filter the CO2 from the polluted air. Looks like this membrane could help to do the job. Other areas of interest are natural gas upgrading and H2 recovery from biogas.
Installation in Canada is scheduled for October.