Biorefinery Workshop - Day 1

Join us for a Biorefinery Virtual Workshop sponsored by Georgia Tech's Renewable Bioproducts Institute and the Integrated Separations Science and Engineering Center. 


The workshop focuses on biorefining / bioprocessing separation and purification challenges, and will be attended by industrial members of RBI in addition to other attendees from national labs and academia. 

This workshop will be held virtually on October 21 and 22. The format is a pair of 2.5 hour sessions held each day. The theme for each day during the Biorefinery Virtual Workshop:

  • "The curse of complexity"
  • "The curse of dilution"

Discussions will include how advanced separations can help break these twin curses. Additional details to be provided soon.
The workshop is free, but registration is required. Register here.

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 -- Wednesday October 21st   (Day 1 of 2)

10:00-10:10  Welcome and Introduction to Workshop on Biorefinery Separation Systems

Molecular Separations from Complex Mixtures: The Selectivity Challenge
Andrew Livingston
Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, School of Engineering and Materials Science, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 4NS, Email:

It is generally accepted that 40-70% of capital and operating costs in chemical and process industries are dedicated to separations. Membrane technology has the potential to provide game changing alternatives to conventional concentration and purification technologies such as evaporation, liquid extraction, adsorption, crystallisation and chromatography. To achieve this, membranes must offer resilience in harsh liquid environments, and have good permeance. Crucially, in many applications to molecular separations in liquids a membrane system should also offer an outstanding selectivity between solutes to provide an efficient process. This paper will explore materials science and engineering based approaches to improving selectivity, and illustrate the effect of selectivity on overall process complexity and feasibility.

Materials science approaches to improving selectivity between solutes revolve around designing materials for the membrane separating layers which can discriminate cleanly between two solutes or groups of solutes. Approaches include incorporating pre-structured materials with microporosity, such as MOFs, COFs, and POCs into the separating layers of membranes, or designing membranes with increasingly rigid polymer networks which build-in desired microporosities.

An engineering-based approach to improving system selectivity is to use multiple separation stages. In these systems, the permeate from one stage is typically fed into a subsequent stage for further solute fractionation. This idea has been explored through simulation and a limited number of experimental demonstrations – these latter requiring the control of pressures and flows.

The impact of these approaches will be considered in the context of separation of complex organic mixtures including lignin fractionation; crude oil separation, and recovery of biofuels, and the potential for each approach to achieve desired outcomes will be assessed.

10:50-11:00  Break

Multicomponent Separations based upon Adsorption and Membranes to Enable New and More Efficient Biorefining Processes
Sankar Nair
School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta GA, 30332, USA

This talk will discuss our progress on developing materials-based separation processes for biorefinery applications. Three interconnected issues will be highlighted. First, we will discuss the importance of imagining biorefineries as an interconnected network of conversion and separation processes, and the possibility for materials-based separations to enable new ways of valorizing stream components. Second, we will illustrate the differing separation challenges encountered in stream fractionation versus product purification, both of which are critical for biorefineries. Third, we will explore the development and identification of versatile and inexpensive separation materials that can operate in harsh conditions of temperature, pH, and multicomponent conditions. The twin issues of stream dilution and complexity are considered throughout this discussion.

11:40-11:50  Break

11:50-12:20  Facilitated discussion of theme of  “Curse of Complexity”

12:20-12:30  Day 1 Wrap Up

Event Details


  • Wednesday, October 21, 2020
    10:00 am - 12:30 pm
Location: Virtual Workshop - Details to be provided

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  • Biorefinery Workshop Oct 21-22

For More Information Contact

Walter Rich