At the intersection of chemistry, materials science, engineering and biology, we focus in the KU Leuven Membrane Technology Group on designing membranes by tailoring their molecular structure and morphology to enable liquid and gas phase separations at molecular level for a variety processes that address current global challenges.
We strive to obtain the right balance between fundamental academic research and collaborations with industry, as the latter allows us to induce real changes to society, but also provides us directions to further steer our membrane design.
Novel concepts are developed in membrane preparation methods and polymer chemistries to continuously improve membrane performance with respect to higher fluxes and selectivity’s, as well as reduced fouling and energy use.
In-depth physico-chemical characterizations at molecular level of the formed membranes and of their synthesis processes help us contribute to the molecular understanding of membrane transport. Resolution limits for (in-situ) membrane characterization are being pushed via the development of advanced microscopy techniques (TEM or fluorescence based) or by applying new techniques in membrane technology, like positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS) and elastic recoil detection (ERD). Valorization of our results through patenting and licensing, in-house upscaling of our membrane production as well as problem-solving research with industry is carried out.
A new class of equipment for high-throughput synthesis, characterization and screening of membranes has been designed, patented and commercialized and is now in constant use in our labs to accelerate these developments. It complements our development of computer-aided strategies to allow fast optimization of membranes and process parameters.
Our key research activities include:
- development of new membranes to allow molecular separations in petrochemical, fine chemical, food and pharma industry;
- high-flux, high-selectivity and low-fouling membranes for enhanced water treatment;
- membrane innovation to extend their applicability in extreme environments; harsh solvents, extreme pH and elevated temperatures;
- new membrane preparation methods to create high-performance selective layers and ultra-stable supports;
- characterization of membrane structure and composition at sub-nano scale, also in-situ during the membrane preparation and their final operation;