A number of research projects are currently in progress with overall funding worth more than 20 Million PKR

Project 1:

Next Generation Mixed Matrix Membranes for CO2 Separations aimed at Energy & Environmental Issues

Coal and natural gas continue to be a cornerstone of the global future energy supply. It is expected that a major share of power requirements in future will continue to be met by fossil fuels. The annual production of the natural gas in Pakistan is approximately 42.9 billion m3 and approximately 20% of this gas contains CO2 at concentration above the allowable pipeline specifications, which is 2 vol% or less. A big market demand for CO2 separations currently already exists in natural gas sweetening, to remove sour gases to meet pipeline specifications.This project aims at the establishment of a facility for the synthesis of polymeric and mixed matrix membranes for applications including gas separations (Natural gas purification to harness the potential of gas generated from Thar coal deposits, hydrogen separation from syngas in fertilizer plants, air separation). The membranes developed will be tested under actual industrially relevant conditions to evaluate the overall performance and life-time of the developed membranes. The proposed facility will collaborate with international research centers and work towards a common goal, i.e. the development of novel high-flux and highly selective defect free membranes for commercial applications. A variety of different polymers will be screened before making the final choice of the polymers. These will include both commercial polymers and the polymers specifically designed and tailored by collaborators/co-investigators of this project. The choice of a suitable filler is one of the most important challenges for the successful fabrication of mixed matrix membranes. Further, proper orientation of the filler in the polymer matrix would also maximize the gas-filler contact, and thus take advantage of the filler properties.

Project 2:

Functionalized and Task Specific Asymmetric Polymeric and Mixed Matrix Membranes for Biogas Purification and SYN-Gas Processing

Bio-hydrogen and bio-methane generated from anaerobic fermentation of organic waste provides one of the promising potential alternate to meet growing energy demands. One of the biggest hurdles in the successful commercialization and low efficiency of biogas production processes is the absence of efficient technologies for the separation of undesirable gases present in the biogas. These gases reduce the calorific value of biogas, hence making it a less promising alternate. This project will focus on the development of novel high performance (highly selective and high flux) polymeric membranes for the purification and up gradation of biogas. CO2 and other impurities present in the biogas will be reduced by efficient and novel membranes developed during the course of this project, thereby increasing the energy value of biogas and making it a commercially attractive fuel with a potential to replace fossil fuels. Another application that will be focused on simultaneously, in addition to biogas up gradation, is syngas processing. Syngas, or synthesis gas, is a fuel gas mixture consisting primarily of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and very often some carbon dioxide. The name comes from its use as intermediates in creating synthetic natural gas (SNG) and for producing ammonia or methanol. In its current form, it has less than half the energy density of natural gas thus making it commercially not attractive. However, the energy density could be increased by the effective removal of CO2 from the mixture. This project will also focus on development of cost effective and industrially attractive membranes for the separation of CO2 from syngas for its further processing.

Project 3:

Synthesis of Chemically Modified Polymeric Membranes for Biogas Purification and Natural Gas Sweetening

This project will focus on the development of novel polymeric membranes for variety of applications with special emphasis on gas separation particularly the separation of CO2 for the purification of biogas and natural gas. The presented research project directly builds on to the core-expertise of the applicants. The developed membranes will be characterized by using appropriate characterization techniques including SEM, TEM, XRD and FTIR. These membranes will be tested in a customized performance testing equipment. The effect of the plasticization and ageing of membranes will also be evaluated to ensure their long term utility. The overall objective of this project is to develop a facility for membrane synthesis, characterization and screening in order to foster membrane research to counter the urgent needs of the country in the areas of biogas purification, natural gas sweetening, coal gasification as well as fertilizer and petroleum refining processes.

Project 4:

Fabrication of Novel Pervaporation Membranes for Dehydration of Bio-alcohols

With the increasing concerns of shortage of fossil energy and global warming, there has been a huge interest in production of biofuels via fermentation of renewable energy resources. Among many available biofuels, bioethanol and biobutanol are considered to be promising fuels having properties of high octane number, high energy content, low vapor pressure and good combustion abilities in engines. However, one of the significant challenges during bio-alcohols production in the fermentation broth is the purification due to formation of azeotropes with water at higher concentrations. This projects aims to use pervaporation process to provide a cheap and environmental friendly alternate to enrich the concentration of alcohols. Two strategies are being explored to prepare novel pervaporation membranes. These include using task specific and tailored ionic liquids in polymer matrix, and functionalized metal organic framework based mixed matrix membranes. The aim is to fabricate highly selective and permeable membranes to provide a cost effective solution.

Project 5:

Anaerobic Fluidized Bed Membrane Bioreactor: Fouling Control and Energy Considerations

Water, food, and energy are three of the major resources issues facing the world today. To help for addressing these issues, domestic wastewater is now being looked at more as a resource than as a waste, a resource for water, for energy and for the plant fertilizing nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus. There has been upsurge of interests in anaerobic membrane bioreactor for domestic wastewater treatment by combining anaerobic bioreactor with membrane technology. Anaerobic MBR has been proven to be feasible for domestic wastewater with production of bioenergy in the form of methane. However, low flux and membrane fouling are the main factors that still the limit the wide spread application of AnMBRs. In addition, there are also limitations in the removal/recovery of nutrients or other non‑biodegradable compounds for the effluent (permeate) reuse purpose. In this project, the aim is to develop an innovative energy‑positive wastewater reuse technology “anaerobic fluidized bed membrane bioreactor” in order to solve the bottlenecks of AnMBRs for wastewater reuse, fouling reduction and energy recovery. The filtration performance and mass balance of organics/nutrients rejection is to be monitored with the sludge filterability analysis for the treatment of domestic sewage. In addition, an objective is to investigate competing traits of physicochemical functionalities of fluidized media and organic biomass for effectiveness in reducing membrane fouling and for energy requirement.

Project 6:

Photocatalytic Membrane Reactor (PMR) for Industrial Wastewater Treatment

With an exponential growth, the drive to improve the water quality, remove the emerging industrial contaminants used in industrial processes and reuse wastewater have combined the recent advances to stimulate water quality control at an unprecedented scale. Photocatalytic membrane process is a new hybrid technology for water and wastewater treatment, in which physical operation of membrane filtration and degradation of organic pollutants is achieved by photocatalysis simultaneously. In past few years, photocatalytic membrane reactors (PMRs) have developed rapidly and have been the object of sound investigation due to some unique advantages. The key advantage of this process is that photocatalytic oxidation can be carried out under ambient temperature and organic pollutants are mineralized to CO2, H2O and inorganic constituents. However, membrane fouling is a multivariable process that is affected by the influent characteristics, reactor operation, membrane features and photocatalyst properties. Nevetheless, enhanced phtocatalyric degradation without intermediates formation, low flux and membrane fouling are the major concerns need to be investigated. The project objective is to study an innovative reactor design of photocatalytic membrane reactor (PMR) to treat industrial wastewaters such as textile, pharmaceutical and pesticide wastewater. This study is investigating the factors limiting the photocatalytic and filtration performance of PMRs with polymeric and ceramic membranes for the treatment of industrial wastewater. In addition, the aim of the project is to focus on the most debated issues such as novel photocatalysts and configuration combined with fluidized media for effectiveness in reducing membrane fouling and photodegradation of toxic and recalcitrant compounds which are non-biodegradable.