Separations Technology

Traditional separation processes like distillation have been around for centuries. However, the underlying fundamentals of these processes are in many cases still not fully understood. The Separations Technology research group focusses on understanding the underlying fundamentals of thermal separation processes involving various hydrocarbons.

Processes include traditional separation techniques such as distillation and liquid-liquid extraction but also include advanced processes such as enhanced distillation and supercritical fluid fractionation. Typically the research group focusses on the separation of compounds where the underlying systems may exhibit azeotropy and association due to hydrogen bonding, and the systems may involve molecules with varying polarity and asymmetrical structure. Ultimately, the aim of the research group is to understand how the structure of a molecule affects its macroscopic behaviour.

Our main research thrusts are currently:

  • High/supercritical and low pressure phase equilibria measurement (VLE, LLE and VLLE) and thermodynamic modelling of these complex systems
  • Hydrodynamic characterisation of tray and packed columns
  • Supercritical fluid extraction and/or fractionation of high molecular mass compounds
  • Adsorption for product purification of hydrocarbon streams and for cleaning waste streams
  • Membrane technology for organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN) in catalysts recovery, product purification and solvent recovery

The separations technology research group has a number of state of the art setups, including:

  • High pressure static-analytic and static-synthetic phase equilibria units
  • Low pressure vapour-liquid-liquid equilibrium still
  • Hydrodynamic characterisation pilot plant
  • Supercritical fluid fractionation and extraction pilot plants

The researchers listed below all form part of the Separations Technology group. Follow the link to their individual profiles to find out more about their research interests and activities.

Prof André Burger
Departmental Chairman | Professor
Ms Sunel Nortjé
Prof Cara Schwarz