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New Frontiers in (Trans)esterification Pervaporation Membrane Reactors (New-PMR)
Start date: Oct 1, 2011, End date: Sep 30, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Pervaporation membrane reactors (PMRs) have shown extraordinary potential to separate continuously water from water-organic solvent mixtures. They are applied to the separation of water in esterification reactions to shift the equilibrium towards the production of the ester. In this work, a PMR will be set up and studied to perform the esterification reaction of ethylene with acetic acid and remove the water produced in order to increase the production of vinyl acetate monomer (VAM). This involves the separation of water from acetic acid in the reaction medium, which is a challenge significantly beyond the current state-of-the-art.A second challenge in which PRMs will be developed as a leap frog technology is in developing membrane reactors for transesterification reactions. They are even much more challenging than esterification reactions, because the separation to be achieved in this case is between an ester and an alcohol (in the reaction medium), which is a difficult organic-organic separation that currently is being done by reactive distillation, at high cost. In this work, the transesterification of methyl acetate and n-butanol to yield n-butyl acetate will be studied among others.The overall study comprises two specific objectives: i) development of an in-depth experimental study for esterification and transesterification reactions, which includes the construction of the lab-scale plant and the synthesis of novel membranes based on polyphenylsulfone; and ii) development of system modeling based on reaction kinetics, reactor configuration and transport through pervaporation membranes. In this way, a fully integrated approach from membrane development to modeling and simulation is proposed.This project explores new frontiers in PRMs and opens a new field of research that will allow the intensification and integration of processes in the chemical industry.
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