Commercial scale molecular filtration and extraction
Most filtration systems deal with removing particles of a certain size. Some, like ion exchange, deal with small groups of metals. Ligar removes and recovers very specific molecules using molecularly imprinted polymers, or MIPs for short.
MIPs have been around since the 1970s and are typically used for the high precision analysis of compounds in laboratories. We have taken this concept of using MIPs to capture specific molecules and applied it to large scale filtration. This was no easy task as MIPs are typically difficult to develop, difficult to produce in large volumes and difficult to use outside of the lab.
Ligar currently produces 5+ kg batches of imprinted polymer beads and kg batches of polymer powder and can use these polymer in a range of fluids (oils, wine, water, solvents, acid) at a wide range of pHs.
Our polymers are being used to remove both organic molecules and metals, one polymer for each target. Within organics we’re capturing molecules such as specific sugars, agrochemicals, toxins and phenols (usually taints). Within metals, we’re capturing a very wide range down to individual species.
Pain. That’s where we start! Usually a molecule that’s somewhere it shouldn’t be. Sometimes a molecule that would be very valuable if it was extracted. We check to see if it’s possible to create a polymer to bind to it within the particular environment. Then we make a few test polymers, picking the best one to develop further.
Production and Trialing
As the polymers are designed to work in a particular environment, we create small scale versions of the large scale process to test the polymer. We replicate the materials, pH, flow rate, temperature and target density. Then we do it on a larger scale, preferably on-site where the filtration or extraction system will eventually be installed.
Our partners help us to understand pain! They bring market knowledge, tell us the problems that need to be fixed, help us to come up with the solutions and help us to take these into market. We’ve got some great, global partners but our business is built around finding more. There are many pains we don’t know about and, on the back of these, many opportunities for our partners.