A Swiss startup has developed scalable membrane technology that could reduce the energy use of some heavy industry by 90 per cent
Spotted: Industry accounts for about nine gigatonnes of direct CO2 emissions globally, or about one quarter of all energy and process CO2 emissions. And separation and purification in industrial processes use a tremendous amount of this energy. Now, Swiss cleantech startup UniSieve has developed a technology that removes the need for heating and cooling in separation and purification processes, with sieving membranes that can reduce the energy needed by up to 90 per cent.
Separation often requires a long chain of separation and purification steps that all depend on highly energy-intensive heating. In contrast, UniSieve’s molecular membranes are made of highly ordered networks of porous crystals in a repeating pattern. These separate materials based on size, without the use of heat or cold. Smaller molecules can permeate the membrane, while larger ones are retained.
By offering an extremely precise molecular cut off, UniSieve’s membrane technology allows much more energy-efficient separation. The membranes can efficiently separate molecules (such as propylene from propane) that differ in diameter by only a fraction of an angstrom – a unit of measurement that is a hundred-millionth of a centimetre.
UniSieve’s claims its membranes can be used to separate chemicals, energy carriers, or CO2 from flue gas. Samuel Hess, co-founder and CEO of UniSieve commented: “Our solution is addressing a major emissions cause and its potential for energy and emission reduction is significant for our planet. In essence we say stop boiling and start sieving to end energy-intensive distillation.”
The company recently raised $5.5 million (around €5 million) in an oversubscribed seed funding round. The money will be used to run pilot membranes and expand production capacities.
Springwise has spotted other innovations that could lower the use of carbon in industry, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce energy used in metal manufacturing and an industrial-scale heat pump that cuts energy usage.
Written By: Lisa Magloff