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Optimisation of membrane systems and its benefit to water treatment, food processing and medicine - from characterisation and fabrication to control

Summary of the impact

Researchers at Swansea University were the first in the world to apply Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to membrane separation in the field of process engineering. Membrane optimisation processes have emerged as one of the most significant recent developments in chemical engineering, with a range of applications in, for example, the food industry and medicine/therapeutics. Research undertaken by the University has led to significant commercial and health benefits, including

  • improved food processing techniques, with induced investment of £11m and operational savings of over £2m.
  • novel antibacterial alginate therapeutics, now in clinical trials, that have been proven in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, inducing investment of £7m.
  • exploitation of proprietary membrane modification techniques, with $2m impact.
  • development of two novel membranes used worldwide in the process industries, generating sales of £500k for each..

Submitting Institution

Swansea University

Unit of Assessment

General Engineering

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Chemical Sciences: Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural)
Biological Sciences: Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Engineering: Chemical Engineering

UOA15-08: Efficient, cost-effective membrane filtration

Summary of the impact

Research at the Department of Engineering Science has led to step changes in the way industrial membrane filtration plants are designed and operated . Based on some key research results that have successfully tackled membrane fouling problems, the work has triggered rapid uptake of membrane-based technologies that are more energy-efficient than traditional processes. Water companies are among those achieving both economic and the environmental benefits, and the research has played a key role in the membrane bioreactor (MBR) market, which is now growing at over 10% a year, and in the global desalination market which exceeds US$19 billion, according to GMR Data (2012) [13].

Submitting Institution

University of Oxford

Unit of Assessment

General Engineering

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Engineering: Chemical Engineering

Eco-Friendly Optimisation of Ceramic Membrane Reactor for Monetising Stranded Natural Gas

Summary of the impact

Fifteen years of ceramic membrane research at Robert Gordon University and the applied development programme by the RGU spinout Gas2 Ltd have culminated in the development of the Gas2 pMR™ CPOX process and its new GTL reactor. This technology has captured the attention of major global energy investment company Lime Rock Partners for possible onshore and offshore deployment addressing the monetisation of stranded gas and to avoid flaring and venting of unwanted associated gas. The economic impact is £17.2 million in equity investment during 2008- 2013 with concomitant impacts of new processes and employment opportunities at Gas2, with environmental impact for the oil & gas industry from eco-friendly handling of stranded natural gas.

Submitting Institution

Robert Gordon University

Unit of Assessment

General Engineering

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Chemical Sciences: Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural)
Engineering: Chemical Engineering, Materials Engineering

UOA08-07: Understanding solid-liquid reactions to improve manufacturing processes for agrochemicals at Syngenta

Summary of the impact

The cost of goods is an especially important issue in developing commercially available agrochemicals, which must be manufactured on a large scale. Richard Compton's research at the University of Oxford has led to a step change in the understanding of heterogeneous reaction mechanisms for liquid — organic solid or liquid — inorganic solid processes involved in large-scale manufacturing processes. Compton's work has had particular impact on optimising the processes used by Syngenta AG in its manufacturing of agrochemicals. Since 2008 the insights gained on inorganic-base dissolution have been of great benefit to Syngenta in its development of scalable robust manufacturing processes, particularly in relation to production of its fungicide Amistar and insecticide Actara, which are two of the world's largest selling products of this type. In 2012 Syngenta achieved total sales of over $ 14 billion, $ 4.8 billion of this from fungicide and insecticide revenues.

Submitting Institution

University of Oxford

Unit of Assessment

Chemistry

Summary Impact Type

Economic

Research Subject Area(s)

Chemical Sciences: Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural), Other Chemical Sciences

CS1 - Innovative chemistry reduces the environmental impact of mining and pharmaceutical manufacture

Summary of the impact

The technology in this impact study is based on organofunctionalised silica materials that can address market needs for high purity in compounds that underpin many areas of the pharma, electronic and medical sectors as well as the recovery of limited resources such as precious metals that are used in diverse industries. Since the launch of the product portfolio in 2006, the materials have become embedded in purification or recovery steps in commercial production processes of leading mining (South Africa), pharmaceutical (UK) and petrochemical (Germany) companies and make a significant impact on the business of these companies as well as limiting waste of limited resources.

Submitting Institution

Queen Mary, University of London

Unit of Assessment

Chemistry

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Chemical Sciences: Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Other Chemical Sciences

Modification of hydrocolloids to produce novel and enhanced food products

Summary of the impact

Research into the characterisation, functional properties and applications of hydrocolloids which improves the stability of beverage products has been transferred to end users through the University's Phillips Hydrocolloids Research Centre. The associated development of industry standards for acacia gum supply has resulted in more than 44 companies since 2008 directly using the University's analytical services or adopting its methodologies, enabling improvements in productivity, product stability and costs. The Gum Arabic Board of Sudan invited the University to assist in improving gum arabic industry practices and methodologies for processing, storage and traceability from source in supply of consistent and quality materials, producing benefits in terms of volume of business.

Submitting Institution

Glynd┼Ár University

Unit of Assessment

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Chemical Sciences: Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry, Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural)
Engineering: Materials Engineering

Topical oxygen therapy for wound healing

Summary of the impact

A small, battery-powered device for oxygen generation and distribution (Natrox™), has been developed that, with air as input, can supply humidified oxygen evenly to wounds, such as ulcers, surgical wounds and burns, allowing the patient to be treated in a discrete efficient way without interfering with their lifestyle. With conventional approaches, oxygen can be supplied to hospital patients with ulcers only via gas bottles or piped oxygen, with the limb or body being enclosed in a plastic bag. Many successful trials of the Natrox™ device have been performed, initiating considerable interest, leading to the manufacturing and distribution of the device by InotecAMD Ltd, a University of Cambridge spin-out.

Submitting Institution

University of Cambridge

Unit of Assessment

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Chemical Sciences: Inorganic Chemistry, Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry, Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural)

Economic impact through improved product and process development within Carron Phoenix.

Summary of the impact

Initial research into polymer nanocomposites and their formation took place at Strathclyde from 2000 - 2010. This was followed by a collaboration with the world's largest manufacturer of composite kitchen sinks, Carron Phoenix Limited, through a 6-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) which resulted in a successful new production process of its high-end synthetic granite kitchen sinks. This led to £4 million of capital investment in new production facilities at their Falkirk site, enabling the company to sustain its leading position in the designer kitchen sink market and retain its workforce of over 400 employees in central Scotland, including the 170 workers in the composite sink division in Falkirk. Within the REF period, the research has led to the manufacture and sale of in excess of one million kitchen sinks, generating sales revenue in excess of over £50M and supporting the UK economy.

Submitting Institution

University of Strathclyde

Unit of Assessment

Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Engineering: Chemical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Resources Engineering and Extractive Metallurgy

11 - Ionscope and development of novel scanning Ion Conductance Microscopes

Summary of the impact

Research carried out within Imperial's Life Sciences department led to a collection of new kit solutions to screen the crystallisation conditions of various membrane proteins. These screens were exclusively commercialized by Molecular Dimensions, a UK company, in 2002, 2003 and 2008 under license from Imperial College London. They are the primary screening kit in membrane protein crystallization that is commercially available. These screens have helped to screen the crystallization conditions of a wide range of membrane proteins, leading to many new structures. Molecular Dimensions has sold [text removed for publication] screens, worth more than [text removed for publication], to both academia and industry all over the world.

Submitting Institution

Imperial College London

Unit of Assessment

Biological Sciences

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Physical Sciences: Other Physical Sciences
Biological Sciences: Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Multi-million pound sales and efficiency gains through formulation development and process optimisation

Summary of the impact

Significant economic impact was achieved as a result of research into polymer nanocomposites and their formation, conducted at WestCHEM from 2000 to 2010. Collaboration over the six-year period 2004-2010 with Carron Phoenix Ltd, the world's largest manufacturer of composite `granite' kitchen sinks, led to nanocomposite technology being incorporated into over one million sinks, generating income for the company in excess of £50M from 2007 to the present day. Considerable production efficiency gains saved in excess of £1M annually through the reduction in manufacturing time, the reduction of raw materials wastage, and the reduction in landfill costs (and commensurate environmental benefit) for failed and out-of-spec products. In addition, a £4M capital investment by the company at the Falkirk plant was secured, enabling the company to sustain its leading position in the designer kitchen sink market. With the site consequently designated as the parent company's competency centre for composite sink technology, employment for 170 workers was secured.

Submitting Institutions

University of Strathclyde,University of Glasgow

Unit of Assessment

Chemistry

Summary Impact Type

Technological

Research Subject Area(s)

Chemical Sciences: Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry
Engineering: Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering

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