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Sustainable Separations Roadmap: Opportunities to Get Involved

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Contributed by Robert J. Giraud, The Chemours Company, Christiana Briddell, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®, and Amit Sehgal, Solvay USA Inc.

image001 (2).pngSeparation processes account for over a third of the energy used in chemical manufacturing. To advance the availability of less energy-intensive separations for industrial adoption, the ACS GCI Chemical Manufacturers Roundtable in partnership with AIChE sought a NIST AMTech planning grant to collaboratively create an innovation roadmap. Since receiving the award in May 2015, the collaboration has expanded to include researchers from universities and national labs, suppliers of commercial separations equipment, and a growing list of interested manufacturers and sustainability leaders. Successful roadmap development depends on the involvement of a wide range of chemical science and engineering innovators. Visit the project website to get involved.

Why is this important?

Separating fluid mixtures into valuable components is central to chemical manufacturing. Distillation is the approach generally used to effect these separations because it is a dependable, well-understood method that works. The problem is that distillation is a very energy intensive operation. Over a third of total energy use in U.S. chemical manufacturing is consumed by distillation.

Where are we headed?

Building on pre-competitive collaboration begun in 2013, the ACS GCI Chemical Manufacturers Roundtable partnered with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) to seek funding to create a sustainable separations innovation roadmap.  With the $500K awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMTech) Program in May 2015, the partnership is expanding the collaboration to engage chemical science and engineering innovators from the chemical and allied manufacturing sector, universities, separations equipment suppliers, separating agent providers, national labs, and federal agencies. By late 2016, we plan to test drive a draft roadmap for advancing the rational design and predictable, widespread industrial application of less energy-intensive separation processes as alternatives to distillation. This alternative separations (ALTSEP) roadmap will collaboratively identify and prioritize research, development, and demonstration needs for technology initiatives with the potential to transform the competiveness and sustainability of the chemical industry.

Who is involved?

The growing list of collaborators in the ALTSEP roadmapping project currently includes:

  • ACS GCI Chemical Manufacturers Roundtable (Ajinomoto North America, Inc., Albemarle, Arizona Chemical, Chemours, Dixie Chemical, DuPont, Pen A Kem, Sigma-Aldrich, and Solvay USA Inc.)
  • AIChE including its Institute for Sustainability, Separations Division, and Computational Molecular Simulation & Engineering Forum
  • NIST Materials Measurement Laboratory
  • Industrial Fluid Properties Simulation Collective
  • Pine Chemicals Association
  • AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Sanofi
  • Ingevity, Compact Membrane Systems, University of Toledo, Rowan University

What can you do to help?

The innovation roadmap will be developed based on a series of three workshops in 2016; the first is planned for mid-February.  Success depends on the participation of practitioners and researchers across a range of specialties such as separations technologies, molecular modeling, porous materials, thermodynamics, physical properties, process simulation, and conceptual design.

We need your help to map out a path toward the widespread industrial application of energy-efficient separation processes. A few ways to get involved are:

  1. Participate in the roadmapping workshops to directly contribute to the content of the roadmap influencing the direction of critical research, development, and demonstration.
  2. Encourage the subject matter experts in separations at your company to participate.
  3. Provide examples of the types of separations your company currently performs via distillation so that we can assure roadmapping stays in tune with industrial needs.

Please contact with your input. To learn more and to get involved, please visit

This article has been adapted from an article to appear in the December 2015 issue of Chimica Oggi – Chemistry Today (

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