Smart Separations’ patent‐pending (GB1312390.6, filed 10/7/2013) platform technology incorporates the unique ability to tailor the filter’s pore size, in narrow increments, which enables more client customization than any competing technology. The method enables the creation of a unique filter with tailored “flared” or “conical” pores to suit different needs, high pore density and good mechanical strength. It allows uses in which the ideal pore sizes are not raeadily known and usually unavailable. This allows the development of a novel microfiltration membrane with electrically‐conductive properties or coated with active chemical molecules which can “scrub” and decompose chemicals/particles in the air passing through the pores. Due to the high surface area this can be done in a small low energy device without the needs for large, energy-intensive, industrial-sized systems and organic solvents. The system can also be seen to be a bolt-on technology to current systems improving their efficiency and green credentials.
Our proprietary technology will provide a fundamental tool in reducing waste, costs and time, while creating EU manufacturing jobs and a portfolio of highly exportable EU products. Moreover, our technology will facilitate integration into areas of environmental concern – particularly, in improving indoor air quality through integration with domestic appliances (in the short-term), and removal at source through industrial emissions reduction (long-term).
Although filtration at the molecular (eg. gas molecules, water, proteins) is widely used, with many suitable materials available, and separations at the macro level (eg. flour for a cake) also part of our daily lives, microfiltration sits at a very (challenging) middle. Before Smart Separations, two different approaches to address this technology gap have been tried. In one hand, the bottom-up approach exploits long-standing knowledge in molecular separations using polymeric materials; by opening their pores towards the microfiltration range, membranes do not easily withstand pores larger than 1µm (only at the expense of integrity and cost). In the top-down approach, sieves commonly used to separate very large particles are reduced in size; but achieving pore sizes below 100µm is a task only available to very expensive technologies, such as lithography imprinting.
Smart Separations has introduced a revolutionary system of exchange which provides real time feedback to cellular separations and other particles with similar sizes. The ability to change the size of the filter to the task required can benefit many fields by reducing the cost of production (such as the need of a mould), and allowing the manufacture of pore sizes in narrow ranges, within MF (<1 to 50 µm) – which hereto has not been easily addressable. Having conducted an extensive initial Proof of Market through a grant from the Technology Strategy Board (the British arm of Innovation support), we have narrowed down the initial focus of the company, by addressing three different verticals:
One unit of blood would cost €12,500 which 50% is currently lost in outdated filters.
Current blood processing in England and Wales.
Every donation of blood cost €155 and has a volume of 450ml, which 10% is wasted with a total
of 100,000 lost units per year.
20% is lost in filtration, with a total cost of 20M per year
In some cities, the Indoor Air Quality may actually be worse than outdoor air quality.
In 2010 there were 45 Billion tons of gas emissions, 19% of those from industrial processes.
Our platform technology can be applied to separate particles with sizes larger than 0.2µm, allowing a control of the pore size within the manufacturing process from 0.2 to 50µm. This in turn allows optimising the flow (larger pores required) against the membrane selectivity (smaller pores required). We have identified a large range of potential application fields that could benefit from this novel technology – to which we call “verticals” or the tentacles of an octopus. And while these are in different fields, research on one vertical could be beneficial to others, for which reason the IP developed by the company is always owned by the Holding company (or the brain of the octopus), which is then fed into the other application fields.
Patented process to manufacture on-demand micron-sized pores in a ceramic substrate.
Filter top view
Filter side view