Applications of membrane technology for the sensing and extraction of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

PAHs are considered some of the most carcinogenic and persistent pollutants. Membrane separation process technology has a variety of applications. There have been significant breakthroughs for conventional applications in water and wastewater purification, industrial gas separations (H2, N2, CO2, etc) and chlor-alkali electrolytic cells. However, the development of membranes for hydrocarbon processing, especially of olefins and aromatics, has not been as successful.

Our research focuses on the application of membrane technology, in particular the use of polymer inclusion membranes (PIMs), for the decontamination of PAHs, as troublesome model pollutants, from environmental and oil refinery waste waters. PAHs are particularly challenging to selectively extract because of their limited water solubility, and the lack of chemical functional groups to exploit through selective chemistry. The challenge is to develop a suitable membrane to extract and separate PAHs from water streams.