Rapid Flux Oxygen Separation Membrane

Summary of technology

Oxygen can be separated from air using a ceramic ion transport membrane, a device permeable only to oxygen. Commercial efforts to use this technology in oxygen production and other applications have so far failed due to insufficient rates of oxygen transport, or flux.

Researchers at Curtin University have developed a uniquely structured ceramic ion transport membrane for oxygen separation that shows remarkably high flux. The membrane employs a multitude of microchannels extending into the depth of the membrane, rather than the conventional structure, which limits flux.

Membranes manufactured in the laboratory from the high-performance ceramic BSCF separated oxygen from air at a rate of 11.3 mL/min.cm2 at 1000 °C, which is considerably higher than any flux rate that has previously been reported. Trials on the cheaper and more commonly used material LSCF gave a flux rate of 3.98 mL/min.cm2 at 1,050 °C.

Advantages

The advantages of the newly developed membrane include:

  • the highest reported flux rate of any oxygen ion transport membrane
  • superior resistance to thermal shock, leading to longer operation and greater reliability
  • a simple manufacturing process that is faster than conventional processes, and can be implemented into a standard ceramic processing infrastructure
  • broader application to different materials
  • simpler and greater catalyst loading into the microstructure.

Researchers

The academic team behind this development comprises Dr Dehua Dong, a leading ceramic researcher with three years’ experience in industrial ceramic manufacturing; Mr Xin Shao, a PhD student; John Curtin Distinguished Professor Chun-Zhu Li, Director of the Fuels and Energy Technology Institute; and Professor Gordon Parkinson, who has extensive experience in commercialising research both in university and industry.

Stage of development

Researchers have created high performance membranes at sizes appropriate for industry use.

We plan to continue development work on applications of the membrane, including:

  • efficient production of pure oxygen for medical or industrial use
  • conversion of simple feedstocks such as CO2, water and methane into syngas (CO/H2) for the production of liquid fuels
  • combustion of fossil fuels in a high oxygen environment, facilitating the capture of CO2
  • transfer of other ions, such as sodium or hydrogen for various other applications.

Intellectual property

We currently hold a PCT patent protecting the membrane and its method of manufacture.

Opportunity

Curtin is ready to partner with industry to bring this technology to full commercial implementation. Curtin is seeking licensees for this technology, notably companies with interest in the manufacture of ceramic ion transport membranes. We are also interested in ongoing research collaboration in the optimisation of the membrane, and development of its applications.

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