What is it about?

Ethanol is an important industrial chemical requiring high energy input for its purification. We have shown, by comparing various configurations of the hybrid distillation-pervaporation/vapor permeation setups, that the synergistic effect of combining a membrane with a distillation column is not only beneficial for near 70% savings compared to art distillation but also produces absolute ethanol by overcoming the azeotropic barrier of the water-ethanol mixture.

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Why is it important?

The key findings of our work would be a useful contribution to the process intensification concerning ethanol purification plants. The comparative study on the various types of membrane materials would help industries to make decisions in terms of selecting the membranes for long-term operations and estimating and comparing the overall capital and operational cost.

Perspectives

Writing this article was a wonderful experience since it was my first article. The simulation work was a bit challenging as I had to learn some programming/coding, but with the help of Almighty, I was able to complete it. There has been so much debate on replacing the membranes with separation columns for ethanol purification and as a result, a considerable amount of membranes has been synthesized on the lab scale. Since the ultimate goal would to be commercialize those membranes, I thought why not compare some of them and estimate the overall cost and compare with the conventional process. I hope the key findings of this work would benefit the scientific community across the globe.

Sherafghan Iftikhar
North Carolina State University

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This page is a summary of: Comparison among various configurations of hybrid distillation–membrane setups for the energy efficiency improvement of bioethanol distillery: a simulation study, Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology, November 2021, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/jctb.6969.
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