IEA IETS Task 17: Membrane processes in biorefineries (Working period 2023 - 2025)

Biorefineries are essential for the transition from petroleum- to a biobased industry. The use of biomass as raw material for recyclable materials, chemicals and energy sources is essential and requires efficient and sustainable production processes. This project aims to strengthen national and international know-how transfer between research and development for membrane-based processes in biorefineries. The focus is on application, improvement and innovation in all aspects of membrane distillation.

Short Description

The Austrian contribution to Task 17 includes the following objectives:

Network activities through information events and stakeholder meetings within the national IEA TCP Task 17_2 to strengthen the Austrian membrane and biorefinery research landscape including written contributions to the thematic areas mentioned below in the present Task 17_2 for the extension of the guideline: "Membranes in biorefineries".

The following topics are addressed:

a) Applicability of membrane distillation for the separation of volatile substances:

The separation of volatile substances, especially ammonia (NH3), but also alcohols and volatile fatty acids from fermentation processes as well as hydrogen removal from gas-liquid mixtures will be addressed in future projects with a focus on improved selectivity, integrated membrane processes, effective combined physical and chemical membrane purification processes, autopsy and characterization techniques for Membrane fouling, optimal operating conditions in terms of hydrodynamics and other pilot long-term studies are considered and discussed.

b) Novel, more sustainable membranes:

  1. Membrane surface engineering, e.g. modification of membranes by E-beam or cold plasma modification to adapt the polymer structure (crosslinking, pore size) and to functionalize surfaces.
  2. Development of sustainable materials (non-halogenated polymers such as polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene (PE) instead of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or biopolymers with suitable thermal and mechanical properties.
  3. Development of novel membrane structures using 3D printing technologies.
  4. Model-based membrane design based on transport and fouling models to counteract limitations.

c) Membrane reactors and new modules:

Establishment of research into membrane reactors, the in-situ removal of valuable substances from reaction processes in biorefineries as well as new membrane modules with innovative reactor concepts and modules that can be operated with high solids contents.

These specially selected topics flow as a national contribution to the international task, primarily in the continuation of subtask E - management (emerging membrane processes) and in the participation in subtask D (membranes and modules), B (integration and optimization of membrane processes) and F (water and wastewater treatment in biorefineries).

One of the main results of Task 17_2 is the expansion of the existing "Guideline Membranes in Biorefineries" to expand the content of the applicability and the requirements of novel membrane materials, modules and membrane reactors. To this end, international players are invited to contribute to the guideline as co-authors. The scientifically processed results are summarized in the guideline and presented on the IEA homepage and the open4innovation platform.


Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden (Operating Agent)

Contact Address

Project leader

Dipl.-Ing. Dr. nat. techn. Christoph Höfer
AEE - Institut für Nachhaltige Technologien (AEE INTEC)
A-8200 Gleisdorf, Feldgasse 19

Project partner

Ass.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Marlene Kienberger
Graz University of Technology
Institute of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology
A-8010 Graz, Inffeldgasse 25C