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Diffusion barrier with microporous matrix for separation by counter diffusion

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Publication number
CA1243152A
CA1243152A CA 422376 CA422376A CA1243152A CA 1243152 A CA1243152 A CA 1243152A CA 422376 CA422376 CA 422376 CA 422376 A CA422376 A CA 422376A CA 1243152 A CA1243152 A CA 1243152A
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Prior art keywords
diffusion
liquid
hollow
species
molecular
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CA 422376
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French (fr)
Inventor
Michel S.M. Lefebvre
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Michel S.M. Lefebvre
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D61/00Processes of separation using semi-permeable membranes, e.g. dialysis, osmosis, ultrafiltration; Apparatus, accessories or auxiliary operations specially adapted therefor
    • B01D61/002Forward osmosis, direct osmosis
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D63/00Apparatus in general for separation processes using semi-permeable membranes
    • B01D63/02Hollow fibre modules
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D63/00Apparatus in general for separation processes using semi-permeable membranes
    • B01D63/02Hollow fibre modules
    • B01D63/04Hollow fibre modules comprising multiple hollow fibre assemblies
    • B01D63/046Hollow fibre modules comprising multiple hollow fibre assemblies in separate housings
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D67/00Processes specially adapted for manufacturing semi-permeable membranes for separation processes or apparatus
    • B01D67/0079Formation of membranes comprising organic and inorganic components
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D67/00Processes specially adapted for manufacturing semi-permeable membranes for separation processes or apparatus
    • B01D67/0081After-treatment of organic or inorganic membranes
    • B01D67/0088Physical treatment with compounds, e.g. swelling, coating or impregnation
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D69/00Semi-permeable membranes for separation processes or apparatus characterised by their form, structure or properties; Manufacturing processes specially adapted therefor
    • B01D69/08Hollow fibre membranes
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D69/00Semi-permeable membranes for separation processes or apparatus characterised by their form, structure or properties; Manufacturing processes specially adapted therefor
    • B01D69/14Dynamic membranes
    • B01D69/141Heterogeneous membranes, e.g. containing dispersed material; Mixed matrix membranes
    • B01D69/148Organic/inorganic mixed matrix membranes
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C12BIOCHEMISTRY; BEER; SPIRITS; WINE; VINEGAR; MICROBIOLOGY; ENZYMOLOGY; MUTATION OR GENETIC ENGINEERING
    • C12PFERMENTATION OR ENZYME-USING PROCESSES TO SYNTHESISE A DESIRED CHEMICAL COMPOUND OR COMPOSITION OR TO SEPARATE OPTICAL ISOMERS FROM A RACEMIC MIXTURE
    • C12P7/00Preparation of oxygen-containing organic compounds
    • C12P7/02Preparation of oxygen-containing organic compounds containing a hydroxy group
    • C12P7/04Preparation of oxygen-containing organic compounds containing a hydroxy group acyclic
    • C12P7/06Ethanol, i.e. non-beverage
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C13SUGAR INDUSTRY
    • C13BPRODUCTION OF SUCROSE; APPARATUS SPECIALLY ADAPTED THEREFOR
    • C13B20/00Purification of sugar juices
    • C13B20/16Purification of sugar juices by physical means, e.g. osmosis or filtration
    • C13B20/165Purification of sugar juices by physical means, e.g. osmosis or filtration using membranes, e.g. osmosis, ultrafiltration
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D2313/00Details relating to membrane modules or apparatus
    • B01D2313/90Other integrated auxiliary systems
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D2325/00Details relating to properties of membranes
    • B01D2325/20Specific permeability or cut-off range
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D67/00Processes specially adapted for manufacturing semi-permeable membranes for separation processes or apparatus
    • B01D67/0039Inorganic membrane formation
    • B01D67/0044Inorganic membrane formation by chemical reaction
    • Y02A20/131
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02EREDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GASES [GHG] EMISSION, RELATED TO ENERGY GENERATION, TRANSMISSION OR DISTRIBUTION
    • Y02E50/00Technologies for the production of fuel of non-fossil origin
    • Y02E50/10Biofuels
    • Y02E50/17Grain bio-ethanol

Abstract

ABSTRACT
The modification of a diffusion barrier by the deposition of one or more inorganic species within the pores and on the inside surfaces of said diffusion barrier to form an immobilized inorganic crystalline lattice barrier or molecular grid having substantially uniform permeability, to separate and select different ionic species, giving a high efficiency of separation with a low energy input. The immobilized inorganic diffusion barriers are used for selective separation of small molecules (e.g. molecular weight less than about 1,000 daltons) and provide means for the more effective se-paration of ionic species. A method is provided for the low cost removal of ions (such as salts) from mo-lasses, thereby increasing the fermentation efficiency of molasses and making it more suitable for use as an animal feed. The desalted molasses may be subjected to further specific ultrafiltration treatment to effec-tively remove macromolecular organic compounds such as wax, proteins, and polycellulosic material.

Description

3~5i2

- 2 -The present invention relates to the modification of diffusion barriers by the immobilization of inorganic species therein to increase ~he selectivity of the barrier, and to the use of such barriers in the separation of small molecularspecies from a solution.
Various types of membrane diffusion barriers are known according to the published prior art. Molecular and ionic specieS diffuse through such membranes according to the value of the membrane diffusion coefficients, and for that reason their selectivity is generally poor. Also known according to the prior art are liquid membranes, immobilized liquid membranes or interfacial polymerization membranes which, whilst useful in certain specific applications, suffer the same defects as other previously known membranes.
Small molecular weight separations are not easily achieved by economical industrial scale processes. Classical hyperfiltration requires hi~h pressure and high-equipment cost for the low selectivity, low fluxes and the always present risk of membrane fouling. Chromatography, including high pressure liquid chromatography, gives excellent selectivity but is limited to laboratory scale separations, and is a too costly operation for most industrial applications. Ion exchange, ionic exclusion, transport depletion and reverse electrodialysis are processes applicable only when macro-molecules, with isoelectric points different to the overall pH, are not present in large quantities, otherwise poisoning occurs. Furthermore, high investment cost and high operating cost prohibits their use for the treatment of cheap feedstocks for the fermentation industry.
It is an object of this invention to provide a diffusion barrier for a fluid medium (gas or liquid~ with a porosity greater than about 10-20% for channel dimensions of the order of only several Angstrom.
It is also an object of this invention to provide a .~ ~

s~:

1 selective diffusion barrier wherein a predetermined inorganic species is immobolised within the matrix thereof, to produce a diffusion barrier having a substantially uniform molecular grld structure which functions as an effective molecular screen for the selective separation of small molecules (e.g, molecular weight less than about 1,000 daltons~ and provides means for the more effective separation of ionic species. The matrix used can be any known diffusion barrier e.g. sintered glass, dialysis membranes, porous metals, or any other suitable porous structure.
It is another object of the present invention to utilise existing diffusion barriers as a support to undergo chemical reaction to manufacture a substantially uniform grid of precise molecular size, with regard to the molecular size of the species to be separated.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a substitute for ion exchange; to provide a method of separating ionic species and non-charged species from an organic media wherein said method has the same effect as direct ion exchange treatment but which avoids the disadvantage of poisoning of the ion exchange resin. In this regard, it is an object of the invention to provide a process of separation by "counter diffusion" (or "counter dialysis") which is a highly selective process for the separation of small solute molecules from a high osmotic stream, which process does not suffer the disadvantage o "membrane" fouling inherent to pressure driven processes.
Counter diffusion membranes are as such the equivalent of hyperfiltration membranes if one were to compare a concentration driven process to a pressure driven process.
It is a further object of this invention to provide a method of, and means for, the separation of small ionic or molecular species from a liquid and for fractionation of said liquid bv the use of a diffusion barrier having a uniform pore or molecul~r grid structure of uniform permeability, ~2~S~

1 wherein the diffusion o~ small ionic or molecular species is obtained against ~he osmoLic current through said molecular grid structure ~o achieve a selectivity greater than the ratio of the relative diffusion coeEficients o~ the separated species. As used herein, the phrase "against the osmotic current" is meant to signify the fact that in the presently claimed processes small molecular species (solutes) diffuse through the counter diffusion barrier from the side higher in solute concentration to the side lower in solute concentration, whereas in a conventional osmotic proeess a solvent or liquid will pass through the diffusion barrier from the side lower in solute concentration to the side hlgher in solute concentration.
It is another object of this invention to provide a method of using unitary separative units to inerease the ori~inal separation faetor of such units by the use o a eascade system; to provide a method of increasing the separation faetor between two components in a liquid phase whieh are required to be separated, without using the multi-stage recycling of classical cascade systems.
It is yet a further o~ject of this invention to provide a method for the desalting of molasses to upgrade the value thereof and to provide the basis for improved sugar recovery therefrom or the production of a liquid sugar product or a produet equivalent to high test molasses.
~t is also an ob~ect to provide an improved feédstoek for fermentation which increases the rate of fermentation, the yield of aleohol or other products and the solids concen-tration of the effluent~
These and other objects of the invention will be further discussed in the following description of the invention.
Aceording to one aspect of the present invention there is provided a diffusion barrier for selective counter diffusion, comprising a microporous matrix having one or more insolub]e inorganie salts deposited within the po~es i2 - 4a -1 o~ the matrix and on-to the surfaces thereof to form an immobilized inoryanic molecular grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure whereby said diffusion barrier has substantially uniform permeability.
In one form of the invention the immobilized inorganic molecular grid comprises a co-precipitate of two separate inorganic compounds, e.g. barium sulphate and an aluminium compound.

1 In some embodiments, a protective coating can be deposited onto the immobilized inorganic molecular grid.
According to a further aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of immobilization of an inorganic material inside a diffusion barrier in the form of a colloidal-, crystalline-, semicrystalline- species, or a mixture thereof, with control of the physical structure of the immobilized species, and without plug~ing of the outside surfaces of the diffusion barrier. A diffusion barrier so treated, in most cases would not normally lose any more than about 10% of its original permeability.
~ ore specifically, the invention pro~ides a method of making a diffusion barrier for selective counter diffusion, comprising interfacing a microporous matrix with separate lS reactants on either side thereof, each reactant comprising a solvent and a solute, diffusing said reactants from opposite surfaces through or into said matrix to react with one another to form an insoluble precipitate of the reaction product of said solutes, whereby a diffusion barrier having substantially uniform permeability is formed comprising said microporous matrix having said insoluble precipitate deposited within the pores of the matrix and onto the surfaces thereof to form an immobilized molecular grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure.
Preferably, the stoichiometric proportions of each solute are determined having regard to the relevant diffusion coefficients or ionic mobilities inside the supported matrix, and to the temperature of each reactant.
According to another aspect of the invention there is provided a process for the separation by counter diffusion of small molecular species from a primary liquid Ce.g. a sugar containing solution, such as molasses or molasses fermen-tation dunder) containing one or a plurality of dissolved molecular species of different molecular weight com-prising subjecting said primary liquid to a selectivecounter diffusion treatment with a diffusion ~43~S2 1 barrier of the above described type having a substantially uniform matrix permeab~lity which separates the primary liquid from a solvent (eOg. water~, wherein an osmotic gradient exists between the primary liquid and the solvent, and whereby small molecular species, especially salts, are selectively transferred from the primary liquid to the solvent against the osmotic current.
The diffusion of the small molecular species through the diffusion barrier against the osmotic current provides -a selectivity greater than the ratio of the relative diffu-sion coefficients of the separated species.
The driving forces used to selectively transfer small ~olecules through counter diffusion~membranes or other counter diffusion barriers are the concentration gradient related to the solute species which are to be selectively transported and a counter-current of the solvent associated with the osmotic pressure difference generated by the retained solute species. Counter diffusion membranes allow the passage of solvents and the selective passage or selective permeation of the dissolved solute species. Thus such membranes are "perm-selective", meaning that there is selectivity of permeation through the membrane.
Counter diffusion membranes have porous (asymmetric or homogeneous) structures. The absence of gel polarization, ~hich is inherent to the principles of counter diffusion~
permits the use of non-skinned membranes.
In the case of neutral membranes (not taking in account secondary transport mechanisms like Donnan e~uilibrium, ` coupled transport between ions and waterj active transport by:counter transfer of charged species, selective site to site transport on pore walls) a pore dimension below 20 Angstrom allows an osmotic water current within the pores of a sufficient magnitude to e~fectively oppose the dif~usion of the molecular species to be selectively retained.
Counter diffusion membranes can possess the same pore .

~ 7 -1 st~ucture as membr~ne~ used in hyperiltration, sometimes describea as leaky reverse osnosis membxanes.
Although the diffusion barrier to be used for selective counter diffusion may be any suitable porous dif~usion 5 medium having uniform permeabili-ty to enhance,the selectivity of the separative process, the preferred diffusion barrier comprises hol.lo~ fibres contained in a hollow fibre tube unit having substantially uniform permeability, wherein.the primary liquid is circulated through the inner channels or lumens of a bundle of holl~w fibres and wherein the solvent is circulated in the space surrounding the bundle of holl~w fibres, whereby the small molecular species can difuse through the molecular screen provide~ by the uniform grid structure in the walls of I:he hol]ow fibres against the os~otic current and into tne solvent.
In another aspect of ?he present invention the solvent circulating in the space surrounding the bundle of fibre~ is further, treated in a casca(le system to separate the 'molecular species containe~ therein~ Preferably the solvent circulating in the space surrounding the bunale . of hollow .fibres is circulated to the space.surrounding the bundle of hol.low fibres of a second selective counter difusion hollow ibre tube unit wherein an osmotic gradient exists between the solvent in said space and a further solvent circulatin.g through the interior channels or lumens of the hollow fibres of the second hollow fibre tube unit, whereby small'molecular species are selectivel~
transerred from the solvent in said space to the further solvent circulating through the interior channels or lumens of the hollow fibres of the second hollow fibre tube unit. The treated solvent from the space surroundin~
the bundle of hollow fibres of the second hollow fibre tube unit is normally circulatea back to the ~pace surround~
ing the bundle of hollow fibres of the first hollow ~2~3~5Z

1 fibre tube unit. In order to regulate or to control the concentration of dissolved material beiny recirculated with the solvent in the coupled hollow fibre -tube units, a part o~ the treated solvent ~rom the space surroundin~ the bundle of hollow fibres of the second hollow fibre tube unit is circulated back to the stream of primary liquid to be treated by the first hollow fibre tube unit. Pure solvent (e.g.
water) can be added to the circulating solvent stream to replace the volume of solvent which has been circulated back to the stream of primary liquid ~e.g. molasses) to be treated.
It is also within the scope of the invention for the solvent to be further treated by ion exchange or other treatment capable of fixing by adsorption the species to S be removed from the solvent.
According to yet a further aspect of the present invention there is provided a process for the fractionation of a primary liquid (e.g. a sugar-containing solution such as molasses, or dunder from the fermentation of molasses) 0 containing a plurality of dissolved molecular species of different molecular weight, comprising:
(i) subjecting the primary liquid to a selective counter diffusion treatment with a diffusion barrier of the above described type which separates the primary liquid from a second liquid (e.g. water), wherein an osmotic-gradient exists between said primary and second liquids and whereby small molecular species (e.g. salts) are selectively transferred from the primary liquid to the second liquid against the osmotic current, and wherein the diffusion of the small molecular species through the-diffusion barrier against the osmotic current provides a selectivity greater than the ratio of the relative diffusion coefficients of the separated species; and 5 (ii) subsequently subjecting said primary liquid to ultrafiltration with a semipermeable membrane, .

~;~43~
~J
- 8a ~
1 - permitting the passage therethrou~h of water or other solvent component of said primary liquid together ~ith molecules ~elow a predetermined size contained therein (e.g. sugar molecules~, to form a permeate of treated product containing said molecules, and - preventing the passage of molecules above said predetermined size (i.e. macromolecular species, such as proteins~ to form a concentrate or retentate of the remaining components of the primary liquid.
The invention also relates to products - such as molasses or dunder from the fermentation of molasses - which have been treated by the above-described processes and to the fractionatea products - such as sugars (in liquid or crystalline form) and protein - obtained as a result of such processes.
In yet another aspect of the present invention there is provided apparatus for the fractionation of a primary liquid containing a plurality, of dissolved molecular species of different molecular weight,comprising:
~i) a diffusion barrier for selective counter diffusion and comprising a microporous matrix having one or more insoluble inorganic salts deposited within the pores of ~5 the matrix and onto the surfaces thereof to form an immobilized inorganic molecular grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure, thus providing a diffusion barrier having a substantially uniform matrix permeability to enhance selectivity and being adapted to separate said primary liquid from a second liquid whereby small molecular species may diffuse through the diffusion barrier against the osmotic current from said primary liquid to said second liquid under the influence of an osmotic gradient between the primary and second liquids to provide a selectivity s~
- 8b 1 greater than the ratio of the relative diffusion coefficients of the separated species; and ~ii) ultrafiltration means whereby said primary liquid may subsequently be selectively split into a permeate of a product containing solvent and molecules below a predetermined size, and a concentrate or re-tentate comprising molecules above said predetermined size.
Preferably, the diffusion barrier comprises one or more hollow fibre counter diffusion tube units according to 10 the present invention, each comprising a tubular housing; a bundle of counter diffusion porous hollow fibres arranged within the housing in the axial direction thereof; a countercurrent liquid chamber formed between the outer surfaces of the hollow fibre bundle and the inner surface of 15 the housing; first inlet and outlet ports for passing the second liquid into and out of the liq~id chamber; partition walls supporting the hollow fibre bundle, separating the open ends of the hollow fibres from the liquid chamber and defining the length of the liquid chamber; and second inlet 20 and outlet ports for the primary liquid phase, the second inlet and outlet ports communicating with the interior space or lumen of each of the hollow fibres, and wherein a plurality of channels of predetermined molecular dimensions D and permeability communicate~ between the interior space or 25 lumen of each hollow fibre and the liquid chamber.
Preferably, in order to provide a system whereby the second liquid circulating in the countercurrent liquid chamber may be treated to remove dissolved ionic or molecular species therefrom, for example as may be required for 30 environmental considerations, a cascade system may be provided wherein the first inlet and outlet ports of each hollow fibre tube unit are connected in series to the first inlet and outlet ports of a second counter diffusion hollow fibre tube unit for circulation of the second liquid ~3~SZ
- 8c 1 therebetween.
In a further modification thereof, an open cascade system is provided wherein means are provided for directing at least part of the treated second liquid back to the stream of primary liquid to be treated by said apparatus, and wherein further means are provided to add pure second liquid ~e.g. ultrafiltrated water) to replace the treated second liquid which has been removed.
The cascade system contains a solvent for the stripped ~ ~ A ~
~L52 molecule, which can be different to the solvent used ~or the primary liquid, and for the outside stripping current of the second unit, provided that if this solvent is different, it is not miscible with the other two solvents.
- As a further modification of the invention, ion exchange means and/or other means capable of fixing the dissolved species by adsorption may be provided to remove compounds from the second liquid which have diffused therein from the primary liquid which have diffused therein from the primary liquid. For example, the apparatus may also comprise one or more of the following features.
(i) one or more ion exchange resins to selectively remove the ions or charged molecules required to be stripped, and which can be reyenerated by classical ion exchange using A strong base or a strong acid.
(ii) one or more Sirotherm*type units, as developed by the CSIRO, which can strip the current from charged species and which can be regenerated by thermic treatment.
(iii) one or more adsoprtion units e.g., activated carbon, which can be regenerated by thermic treatment.
(iv) one or more metastable ionic systems which can be regenerated by differential pressure.
(v) a solvent inlet, if the solvent used is the same as the base solvent of the primary liquid being treated, to maintain the volume of the closed circuit system constant, ar.d to equilibrate th~e transfer of solvent due to the difference in osmotic pressure between the inner core and the outer core of the first unit, and in this particular case taking in~o account the lesser transfer of the same nature occurring in the second unit.
*Trade Mark of the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) ~Z~33L~iZ

(vi) a unit for selective separation of a two-phase liquid when the closed circuit uses a two-component fluid of non-miscible sol-vent - as in solvent extraction where one 05 solvent is the solvent used in the primary liquid being treated, whereas the other solvent is a better solvent for the species to be s~riped than is the first mentioned solvent~
(vii) a device to make an emulsion of one solven~
in another when feature (vi), above, is used~
(viii) a pump to ensure recirculationO
(xi) an outlet from the closed circuit to bleed the product in recirculation back to the original product to be treated.
In a further aspect the present invention provides a process for the separation by counter diffusion of small molecular species from a primar~ liquid containing a plu-rality of dissolved molecular species of different molecular weights, said process comprising the steps of:
providing a diffusion barrier having a substantially uniform structure defining pores or channels there1hrough having a diameter in the range of about lO to 15 Angstroms, providing said primary liquid on one side of said diffusion harrier;
providing on the other side of said diffusion barrier a solvent having a lower osmotic pressure than the primary liquid, such that an osmotic gradient exists between said solvent and said primary liquid and causes osmotic current to flow from said other side of said diffusion barrier through said diffusion barrier to said one side thereof;
causing said primary liquid to flow along said one side of said diffusion barrier in a direction generally parallel to said one side; and ~ ~ . . . . .

~l2~3 lOa adjusting the shear rate of said primary liquid along said one side of said diffusion barrier such that said molecular species are selectively transferred from said pri-mary liquid to said solvent through said barrier against 05 said osmotic gradient and currentO
Classical dialysis processes use membranes, isotropic or anisotropic, with pore dimensions small enough to limit water convention by a sufficient amount so as to avoid in-terference between molecules and their first sphere of hy-dration, and the wall. Under these circumstances, classical diffusion laws apply, and dialysis is performed in direct relationship with the respective values of the molecular species conc~!rned. Pore uniformity, in this case is not crictical ancl the value of measured diffusion coefficients are in essenc:e the same as the ones measured in sintered glass diffusi.on cells (this being corrected using the rela-tive value of membrane resistance and interface resistance (see Scheit2er, "Handbook of Separation Techniques~', McGrawhil).
However, with a uniform grid of molecular dimensions close to hali. the means free path of the respective mole-cules, selective counter dialysis occurs. This effect is possible onlv if none of the pores offer free passage to solvent which is detrimental to the equilibrium water flux/diffusion, or, in other words, if bulk back diffusion is minimal.
In this process, a membrane or other diffusion barrier .

1 is interfaced with two fluids: one with high osmotic pressure, the other with low osmotic pressure. Fluid 1 contains various low molecular wei~ht species, to be selectively transferred to Fluid 2. If we consider two of the low molecular weight species as, for example, (a) and (b), they will have bulk concentrations in Fluid 1 indicated as ClA and ClB, and bulk concentrations in Fluid 2 indicated as C2A and C2B. The concentration of each of (a~ and (b~ at the interface between Fluid 1 and the membrane wall is influenced by the shear rate on either side of the membrane and is given by C~'lA and C'lB, respectively.
Similarly, the concentration of each of ~a~ and (b) at ~he interface between Fluid 2 and the membrane wall is given by C'2A and C'2B~ respectively.
Each of species (a) and ~b) is transferable through the microporous membrane according to its relative concentration gradient and its diffusion coefficient, with local transport vectors DA and DB~ A counter current of water inside the pore, corresponds to.a local transport vector Dw. DA and DB are directly related to the thin wall concentration gradient (i.e. related to wall concentrations C'l~, C'lB, C'2A~ C'2B as opposed to the bulk concentrations Cl~, C1B, C2A, C2B). In the same manner DW depends on the real osmotic pressure difference between the two membrane walls and not the osmotic pressure difference measured from the bulk concentration of the species (due to concentration polarisation). Variation of C'lA versus ClA, or more generally C' value versus C values, are governed by the Blatt equation which expresses the influence of shear rate on concentration polarisationO For a given value of ClA it is always possible to choose a value of DW such as ¦ DB ¦~ ¦ DW~
by adjusting the shear rate values relative to Fluid 1 and Fluid 2 of the pressure gradient across the membrane to selectively modify D~.

~s~

~L2913~LS2 - lla -1However, in practice, the dimensions of the modified pore structure ~.i.e. from about 50 Angstxom to about 10 Angstroml are such that phenomena other than classical diffusion have to b~ taken into account, and the present invention utilises the maximum interaction between the immobilized inorganic species, the 1onic species in solution and/or the first or second sphere of hydration.
In this regard, at least foux separate phenomena have ~ hr~p/er~ er~-J~,^ y ` to be considered as e~ ~nrr to classical diffusion:-~ - i

3~
_ l2 _ ,i) Anomalous diffusion phenomena. In the example given above DA and DB can be influenced by the relative local concentration gradients of the two species, the less mobile ion being slowed down by the most mobile ion - e.g., K+ diffuses faster than Na+; if the concentration of Na increases then the rate of diffusion of K will increase whilst that of Na+
decreases.
(ii) Donnan equilibrium effect to respective electroneutrality of transfer.
(iii) Ionic species which are associated with water through strong or tight bonds for their first sphere of hydration, are generally associated with a second sphere of hydration through loose or weak bonds, which can be explained only by the partial orientation of the molecule of water or solvent outside of the first sphere or hydration. In this case the second sphere of hydration is defined by a level of energy being the difference between the energy state of the random molecule concerned, and the partly re-entered state.The channel dimensions at the level of the second sphere of hydration are used to selectively influence the diffusion of the species. In this regard, the minute difference between the energy levels involved in the coordination of the solvent molecules inside the second sphere of solvation allows for discrimination between ionic species which have the same outer shell electron structure (e.g. between hafnium and Zirconium).
(iii) Close molecular interactions between wall, solute and solvent. The coordination energy between a wall and an adjacent ionic species can be used to differentiate between ionic species, and this energy is linked to the solubility product of the molecular species obtained by the combination of oppositely charged ions in the wall. For example, if Barium Sulfate is used as the ~243~
_13 major component of the grid, SO4 2 ions will not diffuse, or will diffuse much slower, because the solubility product [Ba2+] [SO4 2 ] is extremely small, but Cl ions will diffuse without measurable difference compared to the normal diffusion coefficient, because the solubility product IBa2+]
[Cl ~ is large.
Expressed in another way, a reaction is effected between two reactants, each in the form of a solvent and a solute circulating on opposite sides of a primary matri~.
For example, if the matrix is in the form of a hollow fibre the reaction is conducted between two solutions 'A' and 'B', containing solutes 'a' and 'b', respectively, circulating on opposite sides of the hollow fibre matrix, with 'A' on the 5 outside and 'B' on the inside.
The components to be immobilized are insoluble in both solvents a' and b', or at least totally insoluble in one of them.
For immobilization of a predetermined compound 'c', obtained by the reaction between solutes 'a' and 'b' according to the following reaction scheme:
a + b__~ c~ + d the active ionic parts of 'a' and 'b' each have their stoichiometric proportions determined by the reaction, but corrected by their diffusion coefficient or their ionic mobility.
For example, the immobilization of Barium Sulfate (Ba SO4) inside a hollow fibre-type membrane is effected by the reaction between Barium Hydroxide (Ba (OH)2) solution outside the hollow-fibre and Sulfuric Acid solution (H2SO4) inside the fibre. The rate of reaction is 2 controlled so as to have stoichiometric proportions of Ba and SO4 2 inside the membrane at the start of the reaction.
In other words the value of the diffusion coefficient ~3152 1'1 _ for SO4 2 is used to correct the concentration of H2SO4 used to have the same ionic concentration as Ba2 at the interface. Expressed in another way, it is not sufficient to simply determine the stoichiometric proportions of the two solutions which are used, as it is also necessary to take into account the different speeds of diffusion.
Diffusion coeffieients of various ionic species can be found by reference to standard texts. Multiplication of the appropriate diffusion coefficient by the concentration of the ionic species gives the quantity of ions which will be present at a certain time at the interface. With this figure détermined it is then necessary to check the quantity of ions of the other species which will be present and to adjust the concentration if necessary such that exactly the same concentration or stoichiometric proportion will be present at the interface, concurrently. In respect of the formation of crystals of inorganic species in the membrane, allowance can be made as far as the diffusion coefficients are concerned by the variation of such diffusion coefricients versus temperature if the temperature of the two streams are not the same.
A slight disequilibrium, with a higher concentration of component 'a', will create immobilization on the side in contact with component 'b'. In other words, in the example given above, if the concentration of Ba (OH)2 which is used is higher than the predetermined concentration, the Ba (OH)2 outside of the hollow fibre will cause the immobilization of Ba SO4 on the inner core of the hollow fibre.
In the general reaction sequence given above, any reaction between 'a' and 'b' which produces at least one insoluble product in one of the solvents contained by solutions 'A' and 'B' can be used.
The density of the precipitate will be highest in the layer which is formed initially, but will be gradually lower - ~3~
_ 15 _ for subsequently formed layers inside the fibre, extending to the outside side of the hollow fibre.
It is also within the scope of the present invention to immobliæe two different layers of inorganic species in and on the diffusion barrier, one inorganic species giving selectivity for one specific component, the other inorganic species giving selectivity for one or more other components contained in the solution being treated.
In practice it is normally possible to take any inor~anic compound which is not soluble in one of the solvents which is being used. From the chemical formula of this compound it is possible to determine the reaction scheme or sequence which will lead to that compound. With two components in the reaction, the diffusion coefficients are determined for each component, and based on the teachings of the present inventiotl it is possible to determine the requirements to effect immobilization of the compound.
The preferred diffusion barrier is a porous hollow fibre with a wall thickness of about 3 to about 15 microns 2Q and an internal channel height or diameter of about 200 microns.
In an embodiment of the invention relating to the desalting of molasses, the diffusion barrier used was a 1.8 square metre hollow fibre unit, treated such that Al(OH)3 and BaSO4 were immobilized therein as a co-precipitate, obtained by the reaction between Al2(SO4)3 and Ba~OH)2. To work out the precise concentrations required the above described technique (determining diffusion coefficients, etc) is followed, with the regeneration of a 3~ solution of saturated Ba(OH)2 outside the hollow fibre and 0.158 N H2SO4 inside. With this system, typically 500 gm of molasses is diluted with 500 ml of H2O, giving a total volume of 830 ml, and this solution is circulated inside the hollow fibre with a flow rate of 400 ml/minute. Outside the hollow fibre H2O is circulated at a flow rate of 2 ~2 _ 16 litres/minute.
With such diffusion barriers of the type referred to above, the mechanism for selectivity is of five types:-(1) Selectivity by ionic lnteraction. When you have an inorganic precipitate as a barrier, the remaining charge influences the flow of molecules by proximity influence, e.g., BaSO4 is selective against SO~
but allows Cl to pass.
(2) Differential site-to-site transport, e.g., an hydrophobic barrier will selectively transport any agent which can be solvated, especially any plasticizer of such a barrier against water. Site-to-site transport is a step-by-step operation, which includes:-(i) adsorption of molecules;
(ii) diffusion through the barrier, and (iii) desorption from the barrier to the second layer.
(3) Selectivity by virtue of the osmotic gradient between two liquid phases separated by the barrier. In this case, solvent counter-current opposes the transport of the diffusing species. If the maximum grid dimension is less than the free path of the diffusing molecule, the counter-current effect of solvent makes a selective separation against the apparent surface of resistance offered by the molecule to the flow of solvent transported back.
~7/) o ~n a ~ s n~ns diffusion, as described above.
(5) Selective counter dialysis, as described above.
Unfortunately, these selective modes - and especially those outlined in (2) and (3), above - are not 100%
effective. In the case where it is required to make a separation between small ionic species and small non-charged species, it is difficult to obtain a complete separation ~
and especially to completely block the transport of non-charged species e.g., in the case of the desalting of, or the selective removal of ionic species from, a complex ``- L24315;~

organic media, where it is re~uired to avoid the transport of small organic molecules, such as in the desalting of any sugar syrup (e.g. molasses).
One classical prior art method to achieve such a separation is to use ion exchange resins, which give in two steps the deionization of the complex mixture.
Unfortunately, ion exchange sites prepared in a microporous matrix are very sensitive to poisoning by larye organic molecules which are, in most cases, present in the original media. For this reason it is important to avoid any contact between molecules bigger than the inner pore structure of the ion exchange resin, and the resin itself.
The invention will be further described with reference to an embodiment thereof relating to the desalting of cane sugar molasses.
In general terms, molasses contains about 55% sugars by weight (~0% by volume), 25% water and approximately equal amounts of salts and large organic molecules. The large molecules (molecular weight above 20,000) are mainly proteins and waxes and the salts primarily comprise K, Mg, Na and Ca ions associated with chlorides and sulphates as counter ions.
The sucrose content in molasses varies between 25 to 40~, and the reducing sugars range from 12 to 35~, but the sum of the two generally constitutes at least 50 to 55~ of the final molasses.
~lowever, the accumulation of salts and higher organic molecules in molasses constrains economic sugar recovery therefrom, and reduces its value in fermentation and in the stock food industries.
The high salt content of molasses, especially potassium salts in molasses from sugarcane, has limited its final utilization. The combination of high ash and non-sugars content in molasses limit the recovery of residual sucrose due to complex solubility reactions. In addition the high potash levels in molasses have a laxative effect which limits ~ 3~
~ 18 _ l molasses utilization in animal feeds~
Currentl~ available techniques fox salt removal from molasses are based on ion exchange and electrolysis.
However, because the high molecular weight components in molasses cause resin and mem~rane fouling no commerciall~
viable process has been developed for the cane sugar industry~
By means of the use of the present invention it is possible to remove the bulk of the salts (potassium, ca~cium and magnesium salts in particular~ and other small molecules from the molasses to provide treated molasses which is a more use~ul product for use in more efficient ~ermentation and for stock food applications.
By subjecting the treated molasses to specific ultrafiltration treatment, it is possible to effectively remove the macromolecular organic compounds (wax, proteins, polycellulosic material) thus creating the conditions for the complete recovery of the sugar content of the molasses, e.g. in the form of a sugar syrup, from which the sucrose can be crystallisedr if required. By a combination of hollow-fibre separation and ultrafiltration technology it ispossible to deplete the input molasses of a major portion of its salt and large ~W species. Thi, yields a sugar syrup or a product e~uivalent to treacle or "golden syrup".
According to this embodiment of the invention, the molasses is subjected to an osmotic desalting treatment in a series of hollow-fibre counter diffusion separation units. Preferably, each separation unit comprises a highly selective and highly porous diffusion barrier, with the hollow fibres consisting of regenerated cellulose, being of substantially uniform pore structure and wherein a predetermined inorganic species in the form of a crystalline lattice is immobilized within the hollow-fibre structure, both in the membrane pores and on the surfacesO In this way each hollow-fibre comprises a substantially uniform grid of precise molecular size, with regard to the molecular size of the species to be 3~52 ~ separated. The type of crystalline ~ t~ can be changed to ;. vary the rejection characteristics of the diffusion barrier.
Molasses is passed through the hollow fibres countercurrent to a stream of water (or ultrafiltered water) flowing around the outside of the hollow fibres. Each hollow-fibre unit has an inlet (with pre-filter) and an outlet for the molasses feed and an inlet and an outlet for the counter-current water flow. The pores are such that they will prevent transfer of sugars to the counterc~rrent water flow, which is further inhibited by the inward flow of water molecules. However, potassium, calcium and magnesium ions are able to move counter to this flow via an ionic diffusion transport mechanism, as described above..
The embodiment of the invention relating to the desalting of molasses will be further described with reference to the drawings, in which:-Fig. 1 illustrates a schematic representation ofapparatus embodying principles of the present invention and comprising one or more hollow fibre desalting tube units, possibly in one or several banks of such tubes connected in series or in cascade form, depending upon the level of desalting required, and further comprising one or more banks of ultrafiltration units to separate the sugars from the macromolecular components of the molasses, such as proteins and waxes.
~ ig. 2 illustrates an open cascade arrangement for the desalting of molasses designed for the recovery of the bulk of any of the sugar content of the molasses which may have bled into the countercurrent water and which is required to be treated before drainage thereof.
Each hollow fibre desalting unit according to the preferred embodiment has an active surface area of 1.8m2 and comprises a plurality (9,000 to 15,000~ hollow fibres with a wall thickness of about 3-15 microns, an internal channel or lumen diameter of about 200 microns~ The hollow ~2~3~L~Z

fibres have a porosity ratio of about 20% with pores or molecular screens of about 10 Angstrom.
As shown in Fig. 1, molasses - diluted with water if necessary - is pumped through the internal channels of the hollow fibres with filtered or u]trafiltered tap water pumped in countercurrent in the space surrounding the hollow fibres. Under the lnfluence of the osmotic gradient which exists, certain ions - including potassium, calcium a~d magnesium ions - diffuse through the molecular screen provided by the porous wall structure of the hollow fibres, with some water flowing back through the channels and into the molasses stream. According to the flow rate of the molasses pumped through the hollow fibre tubes, and the level of desalting which is required, the molasses may be passed through one or a plurality of banks of such hollow fibre tubes (with tubes in each bank in parallel) to obtain the required level of desalting. For example, the potassium content may be reduced by up to about 90~ of the o~iginal potassium content, depending upon the number of hollow fibre tube units used and the particular operating conditions applied. More than half of one of the most prolific salts in molasses, potassium, can be removed in a single pass through a bank of hollow fibre tubes. A 60 tube module can produce 1.8 tonnes per hour of substantially desalted molasses while using less than 4m3 of water per hour with a power consumption of less than 4KW. Operating pressures are typically less than 50 kpa but depend on the viscosity of the molasses, temperature, flow rate and the desired level of desalting.
Ion levels in the molasses can be determined by atomic absorption spectroscopy before and after passage through the hollow fibre tubesO
The following results have been obtained for a 1.2m2 membrane using molasses diluted to 520g/1 sugar concentration:

3~S;~

No. of Passes Ion Concentrations (g/l) K Na Mg Ca Cl .
5 Control 41.4 1.1 4.6 8.4 21.3 1 Pass 26.0 0.72 3.2 7.0 12.4 2 Pass 20~0 0.60 2.5 5.0 9.5 3 Pass 14.0 0.49 2.0 4.6 6.8 At this stage, if required, the treatment of molasses can be terminated and the desalted molasses returned to the refinery or to the fermentation plant.
However, the desalted molasses may be further treated, in a second phase, by subjecting the desalted molasses to ultrafiltration, to eliminate macro-molecules which have a molecular weight higher than the sugar, i.e. to remove the protein and the wax.
By a combination of hollow-fibre separation and ultrafiltration technology, as shown in Fig. 1, it is possible to deplete the input molasses of a major portion of its salt and large MW species. This yields a sugar syrup or a product equivalent to "Golden Syrup".
The desalted molasses is circulated through a three-stage ultrafiltration system of capillary modules, as shown in Fig. 1. Ultrafiltration effects the separation of different molecular sizes through porous membranes in thin channels at high velocity. Various molecular weight cut-offs are available to adjust the wax and macromolecular content of the molasses to meet market needs and requirements.
The combined effect of the hollow fibre desa]ting tube and the ultrafiltration equipment permits the removal of the small molecular fraction and the high molecular fraction thus leaving a syrup which contains the sugars (sucrose and invert sugars) and some colouring agents of intermediate molecular weight. This product (treacle or golden syrup) can be either:

,~9 ~ A "~11 t~

- Directly used as a liquid sugar substitute and eventually a natural colouring agent (the colour can be adjusted by modification of the molecular weight cut-off of the UF membrane).
- Concentrated by multiple effect evaporation to be shipped and used in sensitive fermentation areas (baker's yeast, citric acid, mono sodium glutamate, pharmaceuticals).
- Returned to the refinery for sucrose extraction; the low potassium content and the absence of high molecular compounds permits two thirds sucrose recovery per strike.
The equipment is readily tuneable or adaptable to the user's requirements; it is a simple matter to adjust the apparatus to modify the salt content of the product.
Furthermore, the use of different ultrafiltration lS membranes allows the manufacturer to selectively control the amount of small molecules related to color, taste and surfactant properties for enhancement of colour, taste and eventually mechanical properties of the end product.
The first two stages of the ultrafiltration unit produce the sugar syrup. In the third stage water is added to rinse the molasses. The permeate from Stage III (very dilute syrup "sweet water") is recycled back to the counter-current mixer where it is used to dilute the incoming molasses prior to the desalting stage. Because it is a closed loop system, there is no loss of sugar.
The depleted molasses flow from Stage III is primarily a protein concentrate, containing about 25% protein and wax W/W. For small installations the protein concentrate will simply be discharged to an anaerobic septic tank. For larger 30 installations (e.g. treating in excess of 10,000 tonnes molasses/year) it may be feasible to install a dryer to recover the protein concentrate in pwoder form. The protein concentrate solution is stable only for about 3 days but when dried it has a stable shelf life of about 12 months.
Fig. 2 of the drawings illustrates an open cascade ~ %

modification for the hollow fibre tube desalting unit, whether for use as part of the system illustrated in Fig. 1, or for a straight molasses desalting application without the subsequent ultrafiltration treatment.
As shown in Fig. 2, molasses is pumped th~ough the central channels of the hollow fibres of Tube 1 with water pumped at countercurrent in the space surrounding the hollow fibre bundle. To reduce the effect of any suyar bleeding from the molasses into the countercurrent water, said countercurrent water is pumped into the space surrounding the hollow fibre bundle of a second tube (Tube 2) which has been connected to Tube 1. In Tube 2, filtered water is pumped through the central channels of the hollow fibres wherein, under the influence of an osmotic gradient, salts in the water surrounding the hollow fibres diffuse through the porous walls of the hollow fibres and into the water which is circulating through the central channels of the hollow fibres, after which it is passed to the drainage system. The bulk of the sugars which have bled into the water surrounding the hollow fibre bundle of Tube 1 are normally retained in the water circuit between Tubes 1 and 2.
In order to control the level of sugars circulating in the water between Tubes 1 and 2, part of this water is bled off (as shown in Fig. 2) and is recirculated back to the incoming molasses stream where it serves a useful purpose of diluting the feed molasses to an acceptable level of dilution for pumping through the thin channels of the hollow fibres.
The sugar-containing water which~lis bled off is replaced by ultrafiltered water which is ~4e~ into the looped circuit between Tubes 1 and 2, as shown in Fig. 2.
In one experimental application molasses containing 50%
by weight of sugars and 5% salts was passed through Tube 1.
The resulting desalted molasses from Tube 1 contained 49%
sugars and 2% salts (i.e. 60% desalting). Consequently, the countercurrent water in Tube 1 contained 3% salts which had ~L2~ Z

- 2~-diffused through the walls of the hollo~ fibres Erom the molasses into the countercurrent water, as well as the 1~ of sugars which had bled into the water.
When the countercurrent water was passed into the space surrounding the hollow fibres of Tube 2, and was treated against pure water circulating through the central channels of the hollow fibres of Tube 2, tests indicated that whereas 1.8% of the salts passed into the central channel water, only 0.02% of the sugars bled into this water which was to be directed to drainage.
Thus the water to be recirculated back to Tube 1, or which was to be recirculated back to the incoming stream of molasses, contained the balance of 0.98% of the sugars and 1.2% of the salts. Thus by the open cascade system illustrated in Fig. 2, any loss of sugars by bleeding can be reduced to a minimum, and to an environmentally acceptable level.
The form of the apparatus to be used for the treatment of molasses depends upon the intended end use(s) of the treated molasses and the environmental considerations which must be taken into account at the intended site of operation. Generally, three basic modes of operation are provided.
TYPE 1: Where pollution control is not of primary importance and when the investment has to be minimised, water (preferably ultrafiltered)is fed directly to the outskirt of the tube and molasses to the inner channel (lkg/mn/tube of molasses for 1.51/mn per tube of water). One, two or three passes (one, two or three tubes in series of counter-current) can be used to achieve the necessary level of desalting.
TYPE 2: Where pollution control is important (when the factory is not allowed to reject more than 600 ppm of BOD) a double-tube, open-cascade arrangement, as shown in Fig. 2, is used. This equipment is well adapted to the fermentation industry where a high level of dilution is required.

~243~

1 In this case ~ascade Desalting~ the use of UF water is limited to the level of dilution needed for fermentation and the desalting water is simply filtered.
- TYPE 3: Where pollution co~trol is paramount (when the factory is not allowed any reject in the form of BOD) water consumption has to be minimal and the dilution of the molasses has to ~e minimised ~for example, for further crystallisation of sugar) an ion exchange resin unit replaces tu~e number two in the cascade arrangement illustrated in Fig. 2, For each type the following parameters can be defined:
- Desalting level expressed in potassium reduction in % (K%l - Sugar Loss expressed in ~invert E~uivalent) % (S%) - Separation factor - K%/S%

Maximum Desalting 95% 50% 99%
Separation Factor 2 steps 1 step ~6-10) (30-80) (complete separation Sugar loss per step ~as invert 3%-5% 0.2%-1% 0 UF water per kg of molasses (litres) 1.5 0.3-3 0.3 Filtered water - 1.5 (litres) Potassium - reduced 2-3 fold Sodium - reduced 2-3 fold Calcium - reduced 4 fold Magnesium - reduced 2-3 fold Iron - not affected Copper - not affected Molybdenum - not affected In the case of a manufacturer fermenting molasses to ~L3~

produce alcohol, the step of desalting molasses makes his fermentation more efficient in the following ways:
(i) Increased reactivity:
Lower potassium and chlorine levels, results in shorter fermentation times. As this is the most time-consuming operation~ and the step requiring the largest capital invention, the manufacturer now has the capability to treat more molasses in any given period. For example, using Zymomonas mobilis as the micro-organism for fermentation of a 9~ sugar concentration, the followin~
fermentation times were obtained for the same level of sugar transformation:
(a) untreated - 34 hours (b) 1 pass desalting - 9.5 hours Similarly, using the yeast Saccharomyces uvarum as the micro-organism, fermentation time was reduced fr-om 3i hours (for untreated molasses) to about 16 hours (using desalted molasses).
The actual increase in fermentation capacity a fermenter can obtain by using the desalting process will depend on such factors as the type of molasses used, the sugar concentration and the type of fermentation micro-organism used.
(ii) Increased Yield:
It is possible to transform more sugar to alcohol from each batch of molasses. This means that a manufacturer can produce more alcohol from a given quantity of molasses.
~iii2 Increased A~cohol Leue:l in ~he 'Beer'c A most important advantage is that at equilibrium (or even before) the level of alcohol that can be produced i~ the substrate is higher than the amount of alcohol that can be produced in non-treated molasses. This gives three advantages:
(a) Increased Productivity - more alcohol produced per ~at~h (b) Reduced Energy Requirement - distillation of the alcohol ~L2~3~5~

1 requires less energy because there is more alcohol and less ~ater in the beer.
~C) Increased capacity - the reflux of the.column can be increased.
The increased efficiency of fermentation, using s,D.C.
yeast, significant reduction in the time to reach equilibrium following molasses desaltin~ is shown in the ta~le below:

Rate of Alcohol Fermentati.on Max~ EtOH
Production Eficiency Concentration (gm EtOH/l/Hr) % After 16h (,% V/V ~
.. . .. .
Non-clarified 15 molasses 2.0 78 4.5 Clarified molasses 2.4 80 5 (same in-stallation) Clarified molasses 2.4 8Q
Clarified and desalted molasses 4.1 88 8,2 _ Another applica-tion of the present invention is the provision of a diffusion barrier in which the immobilized crys-tals provide total selectivity against NaCl; in other words~ .
provision of a membrane wh.ich is impermeable to NaCl, but which substantially maintains its water permeabili.t~, as indicated above, it is a feature of barriers created by the process of the present invention that they do not lose more than about 10% of their original permeability.
Such membranes could find potential use in, for example, ~5~:
- 28 _ concentration of fruit juices (e.g. osmotic pressure about 5 atmospheres) in a run against sea water (osmotic pressure about 35 atmospheres), at absolute minimal energy cost.
The invention further envisages the immobilization of crystals in diffusion barriers in dry form for use as gas permeation barriers. The inventive process of the present invention enables the formation of diffusion barriers with a sufficiently well distributed lattice structure to provide selectivity between gases. Possible applications for such barriers could be the separation of oxygen from the air, the extraction of helium, the purification of gases such as carbonic gas, etc.
Although the invention has been described above with reference .o specific examples and preferred embodiments, it will be appreciated that the invention is not limited thereby, and that variations are possible without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as broadly described.

Claims (42)

The embodiments of the invention in which an ex-clusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:
1. A diffusion barrier for selective counter diffusion, comprising a microporous matrix having had one or more inor-ganic salts deposited within the pores or channels and on the inside surface of the matrix to form an immobilized grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure defin-ing pores or channels through the matrix having a diameter in the range of about 10 to 50 Angstroms, said diffusion barrier having substantially uniform permeability and a permeability that is a substantial percent of the permeability of said microporous matrix.
2. A diffusion barrier as in claim 1, wherein the immo-bilized inorganic molecular grid comprises a co-precipitate of two separate inorganic materials.
3. A diffusion barrier as in claim 1, wherein the immo-bilized inorganic molecular grid comprises a composite layer of different inorganic materials deposited sequentially onto and within said permeable matrix.
4. A diffusion barrier as claimed in claim 1, 2 or 3, wherein the immobilized inorganic molecular grid comprises barium sulphate.
5. A diffusion barrier as in claim 2, wherein the immo-bilized inorganic molecular grid comprises co-crystals of barium sulphate and an aluminum compound.
6. A diffusion barrier as claimed in claim 1, 2 or 3, wherein a protective coating is located on the immobilized in-organic molecular grid.
7, A diffusion barrier as claimed in claim 1, 2, or 3, wherein the permeable matrix comprises one or more porous hollow fibre membranes.
8. A process for the separation by counter diffusion of small molecular species from a primary liquid containing one or a plurality of dissolved molecular species of different molecular weight, comprising subjecting said primary liquid to treatment with a diffusion barrier for selective counter diffusion which separates the primary liquid from a solvent, wherein an osmotic gradient and current exists between the primary liquid and the solvent, and whereby small molecular species, are selectively transferred from the primary liquid to the solvent against the osmotic current, wherein the diffusion of the small molecular species through the diffu-sion barrier against the osmotic current provides a selecti-vity greater than the ratio of the relative diffusion coeffi-cients of the separated species, characterized in that said diffusion barrier comprises a microporous matrix having one or more insoluble inorganic salts deposited within the pores of the matrix and onto the inside surfaces thereof to form an immobilized inorganic molecular grid or screen having a substan-tially uniform lattice structure and substantially uniform matrix permeability.
9. A process according to claim 8, wherein the diffusion barrier comprises a hollow fibre tube unit, wherein the primary liquid is circulated through the inner channels or lumens of a bundle of hollow fibres and wherein the solvent is circulated in the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres, whereby the small molecular species can diffuse through the uniform molecular grid matrix structure in the walls of the hollow fibres against the osmotic current and into the solvent.
10. A process according to claim 9, wherein the solvent circulating in the space surrounding the bundle of fibres is further treated in a cascade system to separate the molecular species contained therein.
11. A process according to claim 10, wherein the solvent circulating in the space surrounding the bundle of
Claim 11 continued...
hollow fibres is circulated to the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres of a second selective hollow fibre tube unit wherein an osmotic gradient exists between the solvent in said space and a further solvent circulating through the interior channels or lumens of the hollow fibres of said second hollow fibre tube unit whereby small molecular species are selectively transferred from the solvent in said space to the further sol-vent circulating through the interior channels or lumens of the hollow fibres of said second hollow fibre tube unit.
12. A process according to claim 11, wherein the treated solvent from the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres of said second hollow fibre tube unit is circulated back to the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres of the first hollow fibre tube unit.
13. A process according to claim 12, wherein a part of the treated solvent from the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres of said second hollow fibre tube unit is circu-lated back to the stream of primary liquid to be treated by the first hollow fibre tube unit.
14. A process according to claim 13, wherein pure solvent is added to the circulating solvent stream to replace the volume of solvent which has been circulated back to the stream of primary liquid to be treated.
15. A process for the fractionation of a primary liquid containing a plurality of dissolved molecular species of different molecular weight, comprising:
(i) subjecting the primary liquid to a selective counter diffusion treatment with a diffusion barrier which separates the primary liquid from a second liquid, characterized in that said diffusion barrier comprises a microporous matrix having one or more insoluble inorganic salts deposited within the pores of the matrix and onto the surfaces thereof to form an immobilized inorganic molecular grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure and substantially uni-form matrix permeability, wherein an osmotic gradient and
Claim 15 continued...
current exists between said primary and second liquids and whereby small molecular species are selectively transferred from the primary liquid to the second liquid against the osmo-tic current, and wherein the diffusion of the small molecular species through the diffusion barrier against the osmotic current provides a selectivity greater than the ratio of the relative diffusion coefficients of the separated species; and (ii) subsequently subjecting said primary liquid to ultrafiltration with a semipermeable membrane, - permitting the passage therethrough of the solvent component of said primary liquid together with molecules below a predeter-mined size contained therein, to form a permeate of treated product containing said molecules, and - preventing the passage of molecules above said predetermined size to form ~ concen-trate or retentate of the remaining compo-nents of the primary liquid.
16. A process for the separation by counter diffusion of small molecular species from a sugar-containing solution, which comprises subjecting said solution to a selective counter diffu-sion treatment with a diffusion barrier which separates the solution from a solvent, characterized in that said diffusion barrier comprises a microporous matrix having one or more in-soluble inorganic salts deposited within the pores of the matrix and onto the surfaces thereof to form an immobilized inorganic molecular grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure and substantially uniform matrix permeability wherein an osmotic gradient and current exists between the solution and the solvent, and whereby small molecular species are selectively-transferred from the solution to the solvent against the osmotic current, and wherein the diffusion of the small molecular species through the diffusion barrier against the osmotic current pro-vides a selectivity greater than the ratio of the relative
Claim 16 continued...
diffusion coefficients of the separated species.
17. A process according to claim 16, wherein the diffusion barrier comprises a hollow fibre tube unit, wherein the solu-tion is circulated through the inner channels or lumens of a bundle of hollow fibres and wherein the solvent is circulated in the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres, whereby the small molecular species can diffuse through the uniform molecular grid matrix structure in the walls of the hollow fibres against the osmotic current and into the solvent.
18. A process according to claim 17, wherein the solvent circulating in the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres is further treated in a cascade system to separate the molecular species contained therein.
19. The process according to claim 18, wherein the solvent circulating in the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres is circulated to the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres of a second counter diffusion hollow fibre tube unit wherein an osmotic gradient exists between the solvent in said space and a further solvent circulating through the interior channels or lumens of the hollow fibres of said second hollow fibre tube unit.
20. A process according to claim 19, wherein the treated solvent from the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres of said second hollow fibre tube unit is circulated back to the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres of the first hollow fibre tube unit.
21. A process according to claim 20, wherein a part of the treated solvent from the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres of said second hollow fibre tube unit is circulated back to the stream of sugar containing solution to be treated by the first hollow fibre tube unit.

22. A process according to claim 21, wherein pure solvent is added to the circulating solvent stream to
Claim 22 continued...
replace the volume of solvent which has been circulated back to the stream of sugar-containing solution to be treated.
23. A process according to claim 17 or 18, wherein the solvent circulating in the space surrounding the bundle of hollow fibres is subjected to treatment capable of fixing by adsorption the species to be removed from the solvent.
24. A process for the fractionation of a sugar-con-taining solution, which comprises:
(i) subjecting said solution to a selective coun-ter diffusion treatment with a diffusion barrier which separates the solution from a solvent, characterized in that said diffusion barrier comprises a microporous matrix having one or more insoluble inorganic salts deposited within the pores of the matrix and onto the surfaces thereof to form an immobilized inorganic molecular grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure whereby said diffusion barrier has substantially uniform matrix permeability, wherein an osmotic gradient exists between the solution and the sol-vent, and whereby small molecular species are selectively transferred from the solution to the solvent against the os-motic current and wherein the diffusion of the small mole-cular species through the diffusion barrier against the os-motic current provides a selectivity greater than the ratio of the relative diffusion coefficients of the separated species; and (ii) subsequently subjecting said solution to ultrafiltration with a semipermeable membrane, - permitting the passage therethrough of water or other solvent component of said solution, together with sugar molecules contained therein, to form a permeate of treated product containing said sugar mole-cules, and
Claim 24 continued...
- preventing the passage of macro-molecular species, contained in said solution to form a concentrate or retentate of the remaining components of the solution.
25. A process according to claim 24, wherein said sugar-containing solution is molasses.
26. A process according to claim 24, wherein said sugar-containing solution is molasses fermentation residues or dunder.
27. Apparatus for the fractionation of a primary liquid containing a plurality of dissolved molecular species of different molecular weights, comprising:
(i) a diffusion barrier adapted for a selective counter diffusion fractionation process wherein small molecular species are selectively diffused through the diffusion barrier from said primary liquid to a second liquid against an osmotic current flowing from said second liquid through said diffusion barrier towards said primary liquid, said barrier comprising a microporous matrix having had one or more inorganic salts deposited within the pores or channels and on the inside surface or the matrix to form an immobilized grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure defining pores or channels through the matrix having a diameter in the range of about 10 to 50 Angstroms, thus providing a diffusion barrier means having a substantially uniform matrix permeability to enhance selectivity, (ii) means providing for flow of said primary liquid along said one inside surface of said diffusion barrier, (iii) means for providing a second liquid having a lower osmotic pressure than the primary liquid at
Claim 27 continued...
the other side of said diffusion barrier such that an osmotic gradient exists between said primary liquid and said second liquid, and (iv) ultrafiltration means whereby said primary liquid may subsequently be selectively split into a permeate of a product containing solvent and mole-cules below a predetermined size and a concentrate or retenate comprising molecules above said prede-termined size.
28. Apparatus according to claim 27, wherein said diffu-sion barrier comprises one or more hollow fibre tube units, each comprising a tubular housing; a bundle of counter diffu-sio porous hollow fibres arranged within the housing in the axial direction thereof; a counter current liquid chamber formed between the outer surfaces of the hollow fibre bundle and the inner surface of the housing; first inlet and outlet ports for passing the second liquid into and out of the said liquid chamber; partition walls supporting the hollow fibre bundle, separating the open ends of the hollow fibres from the liquid chamber and defining the length of the liquid chamber; and second inlet and outlet ports for the primary liquid phase, said second inlet and outlet ports communicating with the interior space or lumen of each of the hollow fibres, and wherein a plurality of pores or channels of predetermined mole-cular dimensions and permeability communicate between the in-terior space or lumen of each hollow fibre and the said liquid chamber.
29. Apparatus according to claim 28, wherein the first inlet and outlet ports of each hollow fibre tube unit are connected in series to the first inlet and outlet ports of a second counter diffusion hollow fibre tube unit for circula-tion of said second liquid therebetween.
30. Apparatus according to claim 29 wherein means provided for directing at least part of the treated second liquid back to the stream of primary liquid to be treated by said apparatus, and wherein further means are provided to add pure second liquid to replace the treated second liquid which has been removed.
31. Apparatus according to claim 27, 28 or 29, where-in means capable of fixing the dissolved species by adsorp-tion is provided to remove compounds from the second liquid which have diffused therein from the primary liquid.
32. A process for the separation by counter diffusion of small molecular species from a primary fluid containing a plurality of molecular species of different molecular weights, comprising:
subjecting said primary fluid to treatment with a diffusion barrier for selective counter diffusion which separates the primary fluid from a second fluid, wherein an osmotic gradient and current exists between the primary fluid and the second fluid, and whereby small molecular species are selectively transferred from the primary fluid to the second fluid against the osmotic current, wherein the diffusion of the small molecular species through the diffusion barrier against the osmotic current provides a selectivity greater than the ratio of the relative diffusion coefficient of the separated species, and wherein said diffusion barrier comprises a microporous matrix having one or more insoluble inorganic salts deposited within the pores of the matrix and onto the surfaces thereof to form an immobilized inorganic molecular grid or screen having a substantially uniform lattice structure and stubstantially uniform matrix permeability.
33. A process according to claim 32, wherein:
said diffusion barrier comprises a hollow fibre tube unit, and wherein the primary fluid is circulated through the inner
Claim 33 continued...
channels or lumens of a bundle of hollow fibres, whereby the small molecular species can diffuse through the uniform mole-cular grid matrix structure in the walls of the hollow fibres and be separated from the primary fluid.
34. Apparatus for the fractionation of a primary liquid containing a plurality of dissolved molecular species of dif-ferent molecular weights, comprising;
(i) a diffusion barrier for selective counter dif-fusion comprising a microporous matrix having had one or more inorganic salts deposited within the pores or channels and on the inside surface of the matrix to form an immobilized grid or screen having a sub-stantially uniform lattice structure defining pores or channels through the matrix having a diameter in the range of about 10 to 50 Angstroms, thus provid-ing a diffusion barrier means having a substantially uniform matrix permeability to enhance selectivity, (ii) means providing for flow of said primary liquid along said one inside surface of said diffusion barrier, and (iii) means for providing a second liquid having a lower osmotic pressure than the primary liquid at the other side of said diffusion barrier such that an osmotic gradient exists between said second liquid and said primary liquid and causes osmotic current to flow from said other side through said diffusion barrier to said inside surface thereof, said diffusion barrier being adapted for a fractionation process wherein small molecular species axe selectively diffused through the dif-fusion barrier from said primary liquid to said second liquid against said osmotic current.
35. Apparatus according to claim 34, wherein:
said diffusion barrier comprises one or more hollow fibre tube units, each comprising a tubular housing; a bundle
Claim 35 continued...

of porous hollow fibres arranged within the housing in the axial direction thereof; a counter current liquid chamber formed between the outer surfaces of the hollow fibre bundle and the inner surface of the housing; first inlet and outlet ports for passing the second liquid into and out of the said liquid chamber; partition walls supporting the hollow fibre bundle, separating the open ends of the hollow fibres from the liquid chamber and defining the length of the liquid chamber; and second inlet and outlet ports for the primary liquid phase, said second inlet and outlet ports communica-ting with the interior space or lumen of each of the hollow fibres, and wherein a plurality of pores or channels of pre-determined molecular dimensions and permeability communicate between the interior space or lumen of each hollow fibre and said liquid chamber.
36. Apparatus according to claim 35, wherein the first inlet and outlet ports of each hollow fibre tube unit are connected in series to the first inlet and outlet port of a second hollow fibre tube unit for circulation of said second liquid therebetween.
37. Apparatus according to claim 36, wherein means are provided for directing at least part of the treated second liquid back to the stream of primary liquid to be treated by said apparatus, and wherein further means are pro-vided to add pure second liquid to replace the treated second liquid which has been removed.
38. Apparatus according to claim 35, wherein:
means capable of fixing by adsorption is provided to remove compounds from the second liquid which have dif-fused therein from the primary liquids.

39. The diffusion barrier of claim 1 wherein said matrix includes a plurality of porous hollow fibre membranes and wherein said salts have been deposited within the pores and
Claim 39 continued...
onto the inside surfaces of the hollow fibre membranes.
40. The diffusion barrier of claim 39 wherein said hollow fibre membranes have a wall thickness of not more than about 15 microns.
41. A process for the separation by counter diffusion of small molecular species from a primary liquid containing a plurality of dissolved molecular species of different mole-cular weights, said process comprising the steps of:
providing a diffusion barrier comprising a micro-porous matrix having one or more insoluble inorganic salts deposited within the pores and on the inside surface of the matrix to form a substantially uniform structure defining pores or channels therethrough having a diameter in the range of about 10 to 50 Angstroms;
providing said primary liquid on one side of said diffusion barrier;
providing on the other side of said diffusion barrier a solvent having a lower osmotic pressure than the primary liquid, such that an osmotic gradient exists between said solvent and said primary liquid and causes osmotic current to flow from said other side of said diffusion barrier through siad diffusion barrier to said one side thereof;
causing said primary liquid to flow along said one side of said diffusion barrier in a direction generally parallel to said one side thereof; and, adjusting the shear rate of said primary liquid along said one side of said diffusion barrier such that said molecular species are selectively transferred from said pri-mary liquid to said solvent through said barrier against said osmotic gradient and current.
42. The process of claim 16, 17 or 21 wherein said sugar-containing solution comprises molasses.
CA 422376 1982-02-26 1983-02-25 Diffusion barrier with microporous matrix for separation by counter diffusion Expired CA1243152A (en)

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JPS59500358A (en) 1984-03-08 application
DK490483A (en) 1983-10-25 application
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GB2115720B (en) 1986-01-22 grant
ES536775D0 (en) grant
ES520384D0 (en) grant
FI833731A0 (en) 1983-10-13 application
ES536775A0 (en) 1986-09-01 application
EP0087955A3 (en) 1984-10-17 application
FI833731D0 (en) grant
CA1243152A1 (en) grant
US4717425A (en) 1988-01-05 grant
WO1983002905A1 (en) 1983-09-01 application
ES8502619A1 (en) 1985-02-01 application
ES8608912A1 (en) 1986-09-01 application
EP0087955B1 (en) 1992-10-28 grant
GB2115720A (en) 1983-09-14 application
DK490483D0 (en) 1983-10-25 grant
ES520384A0 (en) 1985-02-01 application
DE3382629D1 (en) 1992-12-03 grant
US4861486A (en) 1989-08-29 grant
FI833731A (en) 1983-10-13 application
KR900008731B1 (en) 1990-11-29 grant
EP0087955A2 (en) 1983-09-07 application

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