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This semester Evonik Industries, a specialty chemical producer located in Hopewell, Virginia, approached VCU’s Chemical Engineering department with a project that would reduce their costs and increase process sustainability. The project is to determine a way to separate their liquid organic product from their waste stream in order to recycle the lost product. Liquid-Liquid extraction is a procedure used across most of the chemical industry. Proven separation techniques already exist for the standard liquid-liquid separation; however, when one liquid is miscible in the other the difficulty of separation is greatly increased. In order to do a liquid-liquid separation of an organic liquid in water at a large scale at an advantageous cost, a new technique must be implemented. This project would be well suited for students with the knowledge gained over three years in Chemical Engineering.

Implementing a method using a hydrophilic nano-porous membrane to separate organic material from water using a pressure gradient will require experimental analysis of the compounds initially. Our team will perform testing on several organic molecules in order to determine the polymer’s hydrodynamic radius. This allows the team to determine the appropriate material and porosity needed for our proposed porous material. The addition of a cosurfactant is also recommended in order to create micelles, which would increase the size of the product being collected. These procedures will be carried out on a bench scale and later scaled up to determine the solution’s feasibility in Evonik’s Hopewell facility.

Currently, flash distillation is the primary technique of liquid-liquid separation of miscible liquids, but in a large process this would become very costly and energy consuming. The solution to this project can become very cost effective and would not require much, if any, energy input to work. The proposed solution to this problem could be used worldwide in order to further purify products, increase product yield, as well as to drive down costs production costs from recycling.

Publication Date



chemical and life science engineering, nanoporous technology


Chemical Engineering | Engineering

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

B. Frank Gupton

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Rudy Krack

VCU Capstone Design Expo Posters


© The Author(s)

Date of Submission

July 2015

Effluent Treatment and Recovery of Polyether Using Nanoporous Technology