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Researchers Create New Membrane Technology for Biofuel Separation

Washakie Renewable Energy

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Washakie Renewable Energy, a Utah-based biofuel producer, has been creating sustainable and renewable products since 2007. Over the past 10 years, Washakie Renewable Energy has maintained a strong commitment to creating the most environmentally conscious product possible; further, the company controls all steps of production to ensure cost-effectiveness and endeavors to stay abreast of new developments in the field..

In July 2017, a new class of membrane technology was created by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. Scientists believe that the new class, known as high performance architecture surface-selective (HiPAS) membrane technology, could be the key to increasing the speed of biofuel production and improving bioproduct quality.

The HiPAS membrane technology is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and is capable of improving the efficiency of biofuel separations. During the production process, numerous separations must happen to convert biomass into biofuel, such as the separation of water from algae. Membranes are commonly used to promote these separations because their porous nature allows certain particles to pass through while others are held back.
Thanks to ORNL’s HiPAS membrane technology, scientists believe they can hasten the separation process of carbon from vapor-phase and aqueous materials. Unlike traditional membrane separations that have relied only on pore size to recover carbon, HiPAS membranes use nanotechnology to alter the shape of the pores. This process allows the technology to maintain separation efficiency while offering a larger range of possible applications.
Researchers believe that the HiPAS membrane technology will be most impactful when used on algae to create bio-oil and that it has the potential to help BETO reach its goal of creating domestically-produced fuels that are cost-competitive.