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Surmounting the peak with climate zones

A new separation process achieves peak performance in separating liquid mixtures with the aid of wandering temperature zones in continuous chromatography.

The diagram shows the cyclical peaks in the new separation process that are brought about by a wandering temperature control zone.

With some substances, such as antibodies or proteins, it is always the case that they naturally occur in the form of mixtures of substances out of which the pure form has to be filtered in a tedious process to make it available for further use in chemistry, pharmaceutics and biotechnology. The aim is to isolate such substances from the mixture in an optimally sustainable and efficient manner.

Adsorption chromatography has proven to be a suitable method to separate liquid mixtures of substances. Here, a so-called fixed-bed column made of glass is filled with a sorption substance to which the target substance is bonded when it flows through the column (sorption). Through modifying the chemical milieu by adding an elution agent, the target substance is separated again (Desorption) and can be extracted in a purified, concentrated form. So far, however, it has been necessary to use large quantities of chemicals for the washing and elution steps.

Scientists at the KIT Institute of Functional Interfaces (IFG) have developed an advanced separation process to remedy this. While it is based on the conventional chromatography principle, it avoids additional chemicals and achieves significantly better separating performance thanks to thermo-responsive sorption substances in combination with a wandering temperature control zone around the sorption pillar. A chamber with controlled temperature that encloses the column ensures optimum conditions.

The dissolved mixture of substances is pumped continuously into the column, and the target substance is bonded to the sorption substance. During this process, a local increase or decrease in temperature is cyclically activated. This climate zone is pushed step by step in the flow direction, although at a speed lower than the flow speed itself. Desorption commences in the climate zone, which results in a concentration peak that leads to an increase in the adsorbed amount of the target substance outside the climate zone. As the zone approaches, this process is repeated, right down to the outlet of the fixed-bed column. The setting in several times of adsorption and desorption results in the formation of a sharply delineated concentration front that can be channelled off at the end of the column while substance is continuously pumped into the column at the inlet.

A prototypical plant is in operation at the Institute. KIT is seeking partners for the further development and application of this technology.

Your contact person for this offer

Frauke Helms, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Innovation Manager, Innovation and Relations Management (IRM)
Phone: +49 721 608-26036


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