All important manufacture processes involve separation. It has been estimated that the costs resulting from separation account for up to 70 per cent of the process industry's total costs.
The LUT School of Engineering Science develops separation processes that are more eco-friendly, energy and cost-efficient and produce less waste than ever before for the benefit of industry and society.
Our research includes examination of molecular interaction, unit operations and process concepts. Our researchers study separation materials and their customisation, regeneration and re-use. An integral part of our research is centred on the optimal use of separation methods, synergies between different methods and the development of simulation and modelling tools.
Separation methods for different fields of industry
Research in the field is based on understanding and modelling of physical and chemical phenomena. This data is applied to separation processes, such as adsorption, crystallisation, chromatographic separation, membrane separation and pressure filtration. Specialist research groups carry out research in these fields. Our research benefits mining, metal processing, the pulp and paper and chemical, chemical, food and pharmaceutical industries, as well as future biorefineries and many other fields.
Development of separation materials
Separation materials play a central role in achieving an efficient separation process. We modify existing separation materials, such membranes and filtration fabrics, by coating them, for example, with thin layers of metal or polymer. An essential part of developing separation materials and understanding their phenomena is the ability to characterise their properties. Our unit is developing new methods for property characterisation.
Optimisation of the separation process
Parametric optimisation is used to improve separation efficiency and to minimise contamination. For example, by monitoring crystallisation in real time, it is possible to effectively separate molecules that are near identical from one another.
Regeneration and reuse of separation materials
Our research in separation has focused on regeneration of separation materials. In other words, we study how separation materials can be re-used to ensure that they generate less waste. The capacity for regeneration of materials is a key issue from both an ecological and economic point of view. We develop purification techniques for materials and study how they become contaminated and how contamination can be reduced by optimising separation parameters and modifying materials.
Synergies between different separation methods
The Earth's limited volume of natural resources leads to a need for recovering smaller and smaller concentrations. The effectiveness requirements for separation processes have further increased for this very reason, and different hybrid processes, i.e. processes that comprise many methods, have become more common. We research these different separation technique combinations, as well as ways of combining them with biological processes, catalysis and oxidation.
Simulation and modelling tools
In addition to experimental research, we have worked to develop modelling and simulation methods. This work focuses on modelling unit operations, as well as on hybrid process simulation and modelling concepts. These new tools allow us to minimise the experimental work needed for the optimisation of processes.