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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T005157/1
Title: Origami-enabled Super Compaction of Membranes
Principal Investigator: Tokay, Dr B
Other Investigators:
van der Zee, Dr K G
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Faculty of Engineering
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 16 September 2019 Ends: 15 September 2021 Value (£): 236,415
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Sustainable membrane-based technologies can cut the energy, operational and capital costs up to 50% for energy intensive processes such as CO2 capture from air or biomethane. These processes account for 10-15% of the world's energy consumption and more energy efficient methods could save $4 billion in energy costs annually. According to International Energy Agency, annual electricity production from ~900 biogas plants in the UK is expected to reach 26.3 TWh.year-1 by 2020. That translates as significant amount of biogas to be purified because biogas contains ~15-50% CO2 and membrane-based separation, if applied, can totally be transformative.

Membranes are perm-selective films, which separate molecules depending on their size, shape or surface properties without requiring any phase change. Therefore, separation costs are reduced significantly when compared to conventional technologies e.g., distillation. The performance of a membrane is defined by permeance-i.e., the amount of molecules pass through a membrane and selectivity-i.e., the amount of the desired molecules separated from the rest. Currently, polymer membranes are dominating the global membrane market (~$39.2 billion by 2019) due to their ease of processability and mechanical flexibility. However, polymer membranes have low separation efficiency due to their intrinsic structure and low chemical stability.

Amongst advanced materials, zeolite imidazole framework (ZIF) membranes have shown unprecedented capabilities towards separating challenging mixtures These are formed by metal cations (e.g., zinc), bridged by organic imizadole-based linkers (e.g., 2-methyl imidazole) that can act as excellent molecular sieves.

Manufacturing commercial membranes are challenging due to current solvent-based thermal fabrication methods. Therefore, innovative techniques are required.

In this proposal, we aim to address "upscaling challenges of membrane manufacturing" by applying origami-enabled super compaction. We will utilise ZIF materials to enable wide-spread application of sustainable membrane-based separation technologies for sustainable future.

The origami-enabled super compaction, combined with electro-chemical atomic layer deposition, will be transformative in the upscaling of manufacturing 21st Century; multi-functional ZIF membranes. These next generation membranes with hundreds of square meter surface area will also completely transform the chemical separation processes that we know today. These processes will be more sustainable as a result of reduced energy requirement and emissions. This will also transform the environment and our well-being in long-term. These foldable membranes have the potential to revolutionalise membrane materials since they can be as compact as possible by increasing surface area/test unit efficiencies by an order of magnitude. We believe the manufacturing method proposed can be translated to other ZIF types and advanced materials such as zeolites or carbon nanotubes.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk