BACKGROUND: To use butanol as a liquid fuel and feedstock, it is necessary to establish processes for refining low-concentration butanol solutions. Pervaporation (PV) employing hydrophobic silicalite membranes for selective recovery of butanol is a promising approach. In this study, the adsorption behavior of components present in clostridia fermentation broths on membrane material (silicalite powder) was investigated. The potential of PV using silicone rubber-coated silicalite membranes for the selective separation of butanol from model acetone–butanol–ethanol (ABE) solutions was investigated.
RESULTS: The equilibrium adsorbed amounts of ABE per gram of silicalite from aqueous solutions of binary mixtures at 30 °C increased as follows: ethanol (95 mg) < acetone (100 mg) < n-butanol (120 mg). The amount of butanol adsorbed is decreased by the adsorption of acetone and butyric acid. In the separation of ternary butanol/water/acetone mixtures, the enrichment factor for acetone decreased, compared with that in binary acetone/water mixtures. In the separation of a model acetone–butanol–ethanol (ABE) fermentation broth containing butyric acid by PV using a silicone rubber-coated silicalite membrane, the permeate butanol concentration was comparable with that obtained in the separation of a model ABE broth without butyric acid. The total flux decreased with decreasing feed solution pH.
CONCLUSION: A silicone rubber-coated silicalite membrane exhibited highly selective PV performance in the separation of a model ABE solution. It is very important to demonstrate the effectiveness of PV in the separation of actual clostridia fermentation broths, and to identify the factors affecting PV performance. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry