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How are We Increasing Energy Efficiency?

  • We are advancing energy-saving, non-thermal separation processes.

  • Our microdroplet manufacturing technology is energy efficient.

Before we elaborate on these points, here is some context.


Reducing energy consumption in industrial separation processes was one of the grand challenges the US National Research Council (NRC) listed in 2006 [1]. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on a Research Agenda for a New Era in Separation Science again reiterated this need in 2019 [2].


Extraction, separation, filtration, & purification are ubiquitous & critical to improving many aspects of our standard of living and quality of life.


However, 80% of industrial separation processes are energy-intensive [1].

They account for:

  • 50% of industrial energy

  • 10-15% of total US energy consumption

Energy-efficient separations could save $4 billion/ year, according to US Department of Energy (DOE) [3].


Focusing on the reduction of energy use of separation systems may be insufficient.

Generally, thermal methods (e.g., distillation) are considered the most energy intensive. However, studies show this perception is not well-founded in all cases [4]. Most separation units are not stand-alone units (unlike seawater desalination plants) but rather parts of more extensive process-integrated and optimized chemical manufacturing facilities. The cost of building these facilities cannot be recovered (sunk costs).

Further, due to advances in Shale gas and related energy sources, there is a perception of the availability of “cheap” energy that may dissuade the need to reduce energy usage.


The benefits of new separation technology are evaluated within these constraints.



Sustainable chemical and biochemical manufacturing is a more persuasive reason to advance energy-efficient separation technologies. Most (80%) of primary energy worldwide is derived from fossil fuels. A decrease in energy use will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy-efficient separations could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 100 million tons annually, a significant reduction in carbon emissions relative to climate-change initiatives. Further, regulatory compliance driven by government regulation establishing carbon emission requirements could be the key driving force behind implementing new technology.


We are advancing energy-saving, non-thermal separation processes.

Sustainability was not a consideration in the design of past separation-systems. However, future designs need to integrate sustainability. Central to this design is the creation of tailored separation materials with high selectivity, capacity, and throughput that are durable over prolonged use. Our approach to developing custom materials for non-thermal separation fulfills this requirement.


Further, our novel separation materials could be integrated into existing facilities, reducing manufacturing costs due to energy reduction and decreasing operation and maintenance costs. Thus, current separation systems could gain economic benefits and become more sustainable.


Our microdroplet manufacturing technology is energy efficient.

Flow chemistry processes have been prevalent in the chemical industry for a long time. They have several benefits over traditional batch chemical manufacturing. Recently, flow chemistry has been applied to the pharmaceutical industry due to the economics of operating the batch processes versus the continuous flow process. They were previously restricted to large-volume chemicals.


Our manufacturing process employs microdroplets (microliter to nanoliter volume) as reactors. These microreactors accelerate microdroplet reactions by one or more orders of magnitude compared to the corresponding bulk flow chemistry. The reduced volumes also enables more efficient process controls. It allows the production of large quantities of products (without compromising on quality) compared to other bulk flow systems. Together, these benefits reduce energy consumption by approximately 30%.


Reference

1. US National Research Council (NRC), Sustainability in the Chemical Industry, Grand Challenges and Research Needs, 2006.

2. A Research Agenda for Transforming Separation Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, 2019.

3. DOE (Department of Energy), Bandwidth Study on Energy Use and Potential Energy Saving Opportunities in U.S. Petroleum Refining, 2015.

4. Valasco et. Al. Systematic Analysis Reveals Thermal Separations Are Not Necessarily Most Energy Intensive, Joule, 2021.

5. Image source: https://bitly.ws/3dSZC


This blog is part of our broader impact series, which provides an easy-to-understand overview of the implications of our technology and products on science, sustainability, and human health.


For more information or to request samples, please email us at inquiry@millennialscientific.com, call us at 855 388 2800, or fill in our online form.


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