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by Philippe MIELE -

The "Institut Européen des Membranes" (IEM), founded in 1994 is a reference laboratory at the international level in the field of membrane materials and processes with research objectives based on a multidisciplinary approach and multi-scale:

- the development and characterization of new membrane materials;
- their implementation in membrane processes (effluent treatment, gas separation, biotechnologies related to food science and health....)

A word from the Director

Over the last two decades, membrane processes have undergone major changes related to advances in materials science (design and development) and in the optimization and intensification of processes, based on physical chemistry transfer of material into the membrane.
For example, membrane operations represent an increasing place in desalination and water treatment, in gas separation, in agro-foodstuffs, in direct relation to major societal needs. In addition, they now cover gas processing, energy production, medicine (artificial organs) and various industrial sectors (pulp and paper, petrochemicals, textiles, chemicals and biotechnologies). A need for increasingly efficient membranes in terms of selectivity, up to molecular recognition, is therefore felt.
The efficiency of a membrane process is based on a high selectivity and on a significant transfer flow. To fulfill this dual objective, the first step is to develop materials with hierarchical structures of controlled porosity. In this respect, the chemistry of materials makes a major contribution, with solutions adapted in terms of porosity control, while combinatorial chemistry must make an innovative contribution. The second step is to better understand the fluid-material interactions as well as the characteristics of the transfers of matter or heat. These two first steps call for the most modern technique of characterization at equilibrium or under constraint, ie, ex situ, in situ and operando.
Finally, the experimental-modeling coupling must be widely implemented by a process engineering approach at all levels of the complete system. The strategy consists in: (i) designing and synthesizing a functional material capable of separating molecules of similar configurations, (ii) developing physicochemical and hydrodynamic operating conditions that best control the transport and transfer phenomena , (iii): develop high efficiency membrane modules, (iv) perform a scale change from the laboratory scale to the pre- or semi-industrial module.
In line with our objectives and our strategy, the IEM is structured in 3 scientific departments and our project is organized around 4 transversal thematic axes:
(i) Membranes of the future: self-organized materials, multifunctional systems, dynamic constitutional membranes, bio-membrane systems and nano-membranes;
(ii) Membranes for hydrogen and energy production: systems for energy generation, gas purification and separation, energy storage;
(iii) Membranes for the treatment of water: multifunctional materials, process intensification;
(iv) Membranes for health: bio-compatible materials, controlled release, diagnostic systems.
These 4 axes constitute the major scientific display of IEM, in which new research strategies are devised, and also help us to clearly define ourselves in an integrated research approach called "societale". The three departments are: Design of membrane materials and multifunctional systems (DM3), Interfaces, Physicochemistry, Polymers (IP2) and Membrane Process Engineering (GPM).
IEM is also very involved in training, notably in master and doctorate levels, coordinates (A. Ayral) an Erasmus Mundus European Masters in "Membrane Engineering" and participates in the European PhD of the same label (EUDIME). IEM also participates in two Marie Curie International Training Networks.

Prof. Philippe MIELE