Scalable Graphene Oxide Membranes for Energy-Efficient Chemical Separations

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OPEN 2018
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Term:
08/19/2019 - 08/18/2022

Critical Need:

Industry expends 12% of all energy in the U.S. on separating chemicals from one another by simply boiling them over (distillation). Alternatively, separation of chemicals with membranes has the potential to save a significant amount of energy for many industrially relevant separations. Membrane processes can consume up to 90% less energy than thermal distillation because the energy input (pressure) is used directly to separate the chemical components in a mixture, rather than to drive a thermal phase change. Thermal separation processes dominate industry for many separations because cost-effective and robust membranes do not yet exist that can handle both the sizes of the molecules being separated (several nanometers) and the harsh temperature and chemical conditions present during separation.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Via Separations will work to develop a membrane platform made from highly robust sheets of graphene-oxide, a material known for its versatility, mechanical strength and relative thermal stability. These sheets will be tailored for specific chemical separation applications to replace conventional, energy-intensive industrial chemical separation processes. Through novel chemistries and innovative system-level integration, the proposed membrane platform promises a tunable molecular filtration capability and is highly resistant to chemical degradation. The team will demonstrate cost-effective, highly selective, and high-throughput membranes applicable to high-value, high-impact separations. When implemented at scale, these membranes could significantly reduce the energy consumption of industrial separations processes, total costs, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Potential Impact:

The proposed work aims to revolutionize many industrial separation processes by developing a graphene-oxide platform to transition from energy-intensive thermal separations to efficient membrane or hybrid systems. Industrial separation operations will be prototyped and scaled up to demonstrate the market opportunity, energy savings, and impact on U.S. manufacturing.


Reducing energy requirements by amplifying manufacturing process efficiency of would decrease U.S. dependence on imported petroleum products.


These membranes could reduce the energy consumption of industrial separations processes by up to 90% and carbon dioxide emissions by more than a gigaton.


The technology would reduce cost and infrastructure needs by up to 50% for high-value chemical and petroleum industries in the U.S.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jack Lewnard
Project Contact:
Dr. Shreya Dave
Press and General Inquiries Email:
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