Greetings from Shin-ichi Nakao, the Director of the Inorganic Membranes Research Center

Promoting open innovation to realize early-stage industrialization of inorganic membranes

Recently, as a new direction of Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth(RITE), we have launched the Inorganic Membranes Research Center to promote the research and development (R&D) and industrialization of environmental and energy technologies using inorganic membranes. Future industrialization is highly desirable in the field of inorganic membrane gas separation, so it is currently essential to promote new types of R&D by encouraging open innovation through efficient collaboration with the manufacturer and user companies. Because we are going to expand our R&D effort to a new dimension, we have given the organization a new name, “Center”, different from our conventional name, “Group”.

Zeolite membranes have already been put to practical use in inorganic membrane gas separation in alcohol dehydration. However, the scale of zeolite membrane applications is currently small. It is desirable to develop inorganic membranes for use in a wide range of future applications. In addition, high-performance silica membranes for hydrogen separation have already been developed on the laboratory scale, but large-scale modules and durability have not been studied. Palladium membranes also face some unsolved challenges in terms of durability and have not yet reached the state of practical application.

At RITE, we have already conducted R&D of silica, zeolite and palladium membranes. However, we would like to achieve commercialization of these membranes in an early stage through open innovation and technology development. Therefore, in addition to the R&D activities at the Center, to provide an industry cooperation section, we have installed an industrialization strategy council composed of members from industry. Our aim is to perform studies towards the practical application and industrialization of innovative environmental and energy technologies using inorganic membranes through the joint work of the Center and industry sectors. This should facilitate practical use of Japan-led inorganic membrane technologies and establish an inorganic membranes industry.

In the Center, university-based researchers who lead the fields of inorganic membranes, hydrogen energy and fuel cells are invited to act as advisors. Inorganic membrane manufacturers who are interested in establishing an inorganic membranes industry, engineering manufacturers who design membrane processes and user companies who plan to introduce a variety of systems using energy, chemistry and hydrogen fuel cells are welcome to join us to attain the goal of industrialization of inorganic membranes by collaborating together with researchers and advisors of RITE.

Inorganic Membranes Research Center Director Shin-ichi Nakao