COSMOS - Organic solvent nanofiltration membranes on low cost ceramic supports

COSMOS-project leads to an economic break-through in separation processes


Within the process industry some 25% of the energy is used for separation processes. The main separation process used is distillation, which has a low efficiency. The COSMOS-project found that membrane technology has the potential to replace or supplement current inefficient distillation processes. Thus reduce the energy consumption of the industry. However, before the implementation of such technologies, both cost reduction and an increase in quality and reliability of membranes is important. Therefore, COSMOS has developed stable ceramic membranes, which can hold small molecules.  

COSMOS-project aimed to develop and scale-up stable ceramic and hybrid membranes to meet the wishes of the end-users and reduce the production costs of such membranes. To do so, COSMOS needed to scale-up hybrid silica and polymer-based Organic Solvent Nanofiltration (OSNF) membranes to 0.1 m2 of membrane area using low-cost, high-quality ceramic supports.

The general idea of the COSMOS project was to use sol-gel technology to modify the structure of hybrid silica-based membranes to make OSNF membranes with tuned retention and test these membranes in selected industrial mixtures.  

A break-through: low-cost Organic Solvent Nanofiltration (OSNF)

By doing so, a breakthrough was obtained in stable low-cost organic solvent nanofiltration membranes. Therefore, the position of the Dutch industry, in playing a major role in production of these membranes could be improved. The COSMOS-project: 

  • Reduced the overall costs of ceramic membranes by producing carriers on a large scale 
  • Automated production, and 
  • Reduced the number of steps for a stable membrane to be made. 

This has led to a new generation of organized mesoporous silica membranes (MSMs) that can be applied within the process industry.  

The results: potential commercial application

Furthermore, the thermally stable membranes that are based on hybrid silica and polyimide on the inside of ceramic supports, have a selectivity for molecules smaller than 330 Dalton (MWCO < 330 Da) and are ready for further scale-up. This is also true of the polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) membranes, with a selectivity for molecules weighing 800 Dalton.  

Considering the impact of the COSMOS-project, we can look at both the economic benefit from the energy savings of the edible oil, the overall costs savings, quality improvement and the potential commercial application.  

The COSMOS project is successfully concluded by the University of Twente, TNO, Shell and ISPT. For more information, please refer to the final report.


This project is co-funded with subsidy from the Topsector Energy by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.