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Enhancing the efficiency of disc membrane chromatography modules by using a flow directing layer

Madadkar, Pedram, Mahansaria, Riddhi, Mukherjee, Joydeep, Ghosh, Raja
Journal of membrane science 2019 v.580 pp. 154-160
cation-exchange membranes, chromatography, filters, laboratories, solutes
Disc membrane chromatography modules are widely used for laboratory-scale protein separations. These have high radial to axial aspect ratios, with the inlet and the outlet being located at the centre. This results in a huge variability in flow path lengths. Also, the radial velocity in the feed side header decreases very significantly in an outward direction, while that in the permeate side header increases in an inward direction. Therefore, the flow paths closer to the axis of the membrane disc have higher average velocity compared to those closer to the periphery. Consequently, the solute residence time distribution within the disc membrane chromatography module is very large, which results in broad flow-through and eluted peaks and early breakthrough of bound solutes. In this paper, we discuss a simple but effective solution to this problem which involves the incorporation of a flow directing layer (FDL) within the membrane module. The FDL could be placed either in the front or at the rear of the membrane disc. The presence of FDL results in equalization of path lengths within the module, leading to narrowing of residence time distribution, and thereby improvement in separation efficiency. Modules housing strong cation exchange membrane discs having two different bed volumes of 0.4 mL (40 mm diameter) and 4.7 mL (60 mm diameter) were designed and fabricated in-house. The impact of using FDL on both the front side (F-FDL) and the rear side (R-FDL) was investigated. The separation efficiency of the membrane modules was assessed using salt tracer experiments, breakthrough protein binding, and ternary protein separation carried out in the bind-and-elute mode. The results confirmed that the use of the FDL significantly enhanced the separation efficiency. In addition to membrane chromatography, this approach of using an FDL could be extended to other membrane disc based modules such as in-line and syringe filters and membrane reactors.