Separation of molecules from gas, liquid and solid phase mixtures is performed by expending energy, introducing materials and/or chemicals, or some combination of these two methods. In the biotechnology and chemical industries, separation processes account for about 30-40% of the total manufacturing costs. It is most desirable that costs associated with energy and chemical consumption as well as hazardous waste disposal be kept at a minimum in order to keep manufacturing costs as low as possible. Many industrial molecular separations are based on equilibrium processing and rely directly on heat or electrical potential energy. The technical and patent literature does not describe any equilibrium molecular separation processes that use light.Light energy has several potential advantages for use in molecular separations. Removal of infrared wavelengths, for instance ensures that the process fluid would not be appreciably heated by irradiation. Light can be focused on specific regions of materials and fluids. Light energy can be applied and removed very quickly, unlike heat energy, which consumes valuable processing time in its application as an energy source. Also, as an energy source, it can be employed without creating more waste material for disposal.Researchers at Arizona State University have synthesized a material and developed method for employing light of varying wavelengths to perform molecular separations. This phenomenon has been demonstrated in ASU's laboratories in which the partitioning of a molecule between immiscible solvent phases is affected by changing wavelength of incident light.
|Original language||English (US)|
|State||Published - May 18 2000|