Preparation of Polymer-Based Membranes for Dehydration of Ethanol by Pervaporation

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Pervaporation is a membrane separation process involving partial vaporisation of a liquid mixture through a membrane whose downstream side is held under vacuum. The main industrial application of pervaporation is organic solvent dehydration. The most common example still remains the production of anhydrous ethanol for the pharmaceutical industry. This clean technology avoids ethanol contamination by toxic species as typically encountered with the former azeotropic distillation process. Ethanol produced from renewable energy sources has received recent interest as a future biofuel. At present, anhydrous ethanol is added to petrol to improve efficiency and reduce emission of exhaust. This report describes the preparation of supported polymeric membranes for dehydration of ethanol by pervaporation. The concept of pervaporation and its historical development in the 20th century is first described. The different types of membrane used in pervaporation today, both industrially and academically, are outlined, namely: polymeric, inorganic, mixed matrix and hybrid organic inorganic membranes. The polymers used in this study are focused on sodium alginate (NaAlg) and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). The inorganic filler particles used to prepare mixed matrix membranes were zeolite 4A and spherical mesoporous silica. Procedures for preparing supported and unsupported membranes are provided. Special attention is paid to supported membranes as this is the norm industrially to achieve a high transmembrane flux. The setup and operation of the laboratory-scale pervaporation unit (Sulzer Chemtech) are also described in detail. The results comprise chiefly of the comparison of flux and selectivity data of the various types of membrane prepared in this work, under similar pervaporation conditions. Sodium alginate was found to be a superselective membrane superior to that of PVA. However, as a membrane material it was found to be too brittle for practical use, i.e. it could not be supported, reused or used as a polymer for mixed matrix membranes as it curled or cracked. By blending with PVA or the addition of the plasticiser glycerol, supported modified NaAlg membranes could be prepared. Glycerol was found to improve the miscibility of the NaAlg-PVA blend, and at a certain weight per cent resulted in an increase in the selectivity of the membrane. The supported NaAlgbased membranes showed a decline in flux over time whereas the unsupported membranes did not. This phenomenon is discussed in terms of polymerchain relaxation across the membrane. As expected, supported membranes showed an increase in flux in comparison to unsupported membranes.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Donal Keane
University College Cork

Dr. Eoin Flynn
University College Cork

Prof. Michael Morris
University College Cork

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Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_50_Keane_Ethanol_prn.pdf  (2.05 Mb)
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Author(s)Keane, D. Flynn, E. Morris, M.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationPreparation of Polymer-Based Membranes for Dehydration of Ethanol by Pervaporation
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier7687a052-b544-102d-af1a-60cde515b757
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2019-05-24

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Keane, D. Flynn, E. Morris, M.   "Preparation of Polymer-Based Membranes for Dehydration of Ethanol by Pervaporation". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2019-05-24)


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SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsDehydration Ethanol membrane separation process
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2007-FS-ET-13-S5
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeEnvironmental Technologies
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceThere is an automated citation generated below. Please use this citation where any further use of this report is used in presentations, publications, webpages, web blogs, demonstrations, or reports.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Wednesday 3rd January 2007 (03-01-2007)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Wednesday 3rd January 2007 (03-01-2007)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Friday 1st January 2010 (01-01-2010)
Published on SAFERThursday 20th May 2010 (20-05-2010)
Date of Last EditThursday 20th May 2010 at 10:42:16 (20-05-2010)
Datasets or Files Updated On Thursday 20th May 2010 at 10:42:16 (20-05-2010)

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Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
This was a laboratory based project. The analysis has no direct geographical relationships.

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
Ethanol produced from renewable energy sources has received recent interest as a future biofuel. At present, anhydrous ethanol is added to petrol to improve efficiency and reduce emission of exhaust. This report describes the preparation of supported polymeric membranes for dehydration of ethanol by pervaporation
Supplementary Information
Future work could include cross-linking NaAlg, embedding novel filler particles and preparation of the new class of ceramic and molecular hybrid membranes which are described in the Introduction. Other applications of pervaporation include the removal of small amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from contaminated water and separation of organic- organic mixtures.

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), NaAlg, glycerol and zeolite 4A were purchased from Sigma Aldrich. Polyvinyl alcohol 88% hydrolysed was purchased from Polysciences. Polyacrylonitrile was purchased from Scientific Polymer Products. A large quantity (50 yard 40 inch roll) of polyester non-woven fabric (CU 414) was kindly donated by Mr Ralph Di Palma of Crane Nonwovens ( The K control coater K202 was purchased from RK Paint. The Mettler Toledo density meter (DE40) was purchased from Mason Technology. The Sulzer Chemtech benchtop pervaporation unit was kindly loaned by the Irish National Centre for Membrane Technology (INCMT) located in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
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