Recovery Act - Novel Membrane Reactor for the Manufacture and Purification of THF

Award Information
Department of Energy
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
10 b
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Compact Membrane Systems, Inc.
335 Water Street, Newport, DE, 19804
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Daniel Campos
(302) 999-7996
Business Contact:
Stuart Nemser
(302) 999-7996
Research Institution:
This project will develop a unique membrane reactor system for the production of tetrahydrofuran. In 2004 about 200 million kg of tetrahydrofuran were produced. The most widely used industrial manufacturing process for this chemical involves the acid-catalyzed dehydration of 1,4-butanediol. In many applications tetrahydrofuran is used as a solvent, but is sought primarily as a precursor to polytetramethylene ether glycol, a polyether polyol that serves as the backbone for a number of high volume performance polymers, including polyols, copolyester ethers, elastomers, thermoplastic polyurethanes, and spandex fibers. This project addresses the development of an integrated membrane reactor and process for converting 1,4-butanediol to tetrahydrofuran and removing the water produced from the reaction resulting in high purity tetrahydrofuran. The membrane process will produce this product dried to the required purity specification. Evaluation of both first generation and second generation chemically- and thermally resistant membrane materials to enhance the chemical process will be addressed. The membrane product can operate at high temperatures and has the requisite chemical resistance to withstand exposure to these chemicals while removing the water of reaction and enhancing the conversion of interest. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The proposed process will increase the reaction rate while reducing separation steps, which will result in significantly reduced capital and operating costs compared to the conventional process. This avoids the significant extra energy required for removal of the byproduct water by azeotropic distillation. It is estimated that several million dollars can be saved in energy costs alone with the elimination of the azeotropic distillation of the reaction product. Other important savings are expected in reduced reactor size based on increased reaction kinetics with immediate product water removal in the reactor. While the program is clearly focused on facilitating water removal from the reaction of interest, this is a platform technology which can serve many areas, such as the drying of alcohols and other azeotropes, drying of other organics, drying of process fluids and water removal to enhance chemical reactions. This technology once developed will serve as a platform technology for other processes where water is produced as a byproduct of the basic chemical reaction.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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