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proionic news
  • HIPE-REC® - A breakthrough for ionic liquid recovery and recycling in biomass processing
  • Progresses in the development of high-performance membranes for redox flow batteries
HIPE-REC® - A breakthrough for ionic liquid recovery and recycling in biomass processing

The processing of diverse kinds of biomass using ionic liquids has been developing fast within the last decade, and today a significant number of scientific papers are published and patents are applied per year globally. E.g. the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass by pretreatment with ionic liquids has been unmet by other technologies since more than 15 years, in terms of robustness, feedstock variability and sugar yield. Why then didn’t ionic liquids break through commercially yet?
One of the signature properties of ionic liquids is their extremely low vapor pressure, which makes an evaporative workup impossible. In order to recover the valuable ionic liquid after processing of biomass, it has to be washed with huge amounts of water, and the water has to be evaporated subsequently, consuming a lot of energy. In most cases, the recovered ionic liquid is contaminated with water soluble biomass residues and needs further purification steps, incorporating costly and sensitive technologies, such as membrane-based ones. A special class of ionic liquids are distillable ionic liquids, which do have a significant vapor pressure; however, the evaporation characteristics are not comparable to classical molecular solvents and removing them from a highly viscous biomass slurry by conventional distillation techniques fails to meet the mandatory efficiencies of > 99% by far, typically reaching values of not more than 80-90% at max.

proionic GmbH has now fundamentally solved this problem and announces the "HIPE-REC®" technology ("High Performance Recovery" - patent pending WO2023084131): This new technology combines the feedstock and process specific selection of special distillable ionic liquids with the application of a thin-film high viscosity evaporation technology, which is established in other industries since decades, as for instance in the polymer industry. The high-viscosity evaporator device continuously renews a large evaporation surface in the biomass-ionic liquid-mixture and is capable to handle even viscosities up to several 1000 Pas.
© GIGKarasek, a partner of proionic GmbH
The ionic liquid is now easily distilled of at nearly quantitative recovery rates under mild conditions, typically needs no further purifications steps and is ready for the next cycle. The resulting ionic-liquid processed biomass is ready to use for any follow up process step directly, preventing the need for huge amounts of washing water, and saving energy and time.
Fig.1: Recovery of distillable ionic liquid Ethanolammonium-acetate (Tb = 210 °C at 1 atm) from pretreated sorghum bicolor at 1 mbar and 140 °C, using conventional technology versus proionic’s HIPE-REC® (WO2023084131) technology.
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Share your ideas with us! Do you have an application where distillable ILs could be the key to the solution?
Progresses in the development of high-performance membranes for redox flow batteries

Redox flow batteries (RFBs), fuel cells and other energy storage devices require the use of ion exchange membranes for their operation. Commercially available membranes are neither renewable, sustainable nor recyclable and a major cost factor. The FFG-funded 'IonFlow' project aims to explore a novel type of RFB membrane technology, which is scalable, based on sustainable and renewable resources and tailor-made ionic liquids. These membranes fulfill all requirements to an ion exchange membrane for RFB (e.g., ion conductivity and selectivity, prevention of cross-diffusion through the membrane).

In the first year, we were already able to operate an organic redox flow battery with our novel membrane type. Testing and analysis of these promising membranes is currently limited by the laboratory equipment and the high amount of manual work, which is necessary for manufacturing. These limitations led to the next logical step, the scale up of this process.
Therefore, a fully automated, roll-to-roll prototype for a continuous production has recently been build up. The prototype was funded by the AWS prototyping program. This prototype enables the continuous production of membranes with constant quality and a width of 450 mm. Membranes of this size are suitable for pilot plants and enable further investigation of the characteristics of this new generation of membranes. With this, we are one step closer in transferring this technology from laboratory to commercial scale.
Fig. 1: 3D model of the upscaled process.

Dr. Markus Damm, Head of Research and Development:
“It is impressive how quickly our project partner, Graz University of Technology, has developed the upscaling process. The development and construction of the prototype plant, required for the upscaling process, was extremely professional. We are very pleased to be able to work with TU Graz as a cooperation partner.”

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To learn more about IL applications in the field of redox flow batteries membrane technology please contact
Markus Damm
Head of R&D
T: +43 (664) 889 339 43
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