ELSA - Electrically Switchable Adsorption membranes

New large-scale project on Electrically Switchable Adsorption Separation Processes (ELSA)


In the summer of 2019, the new project Electrically Switchable Absorption Separation Processes (ELSA) kicked-off. Connecting with major industry partners, the project focuses on setting-up a large project on Electrically Switchable Adsorption membranes in industrial separation processes. A crucial advantage of using electrically switchable membranes is that they can be driven directly by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy. In addition, it does not rely on chemicals and therefore, it can be employed in food products.


The ELSA project aims to set-up the electrically switchable selective adsorption and desorption processes of proteins and smaller molecules such as carbon monoxide and ethylene. The project is founded on the results of an earlier ISPT project on electrically switchable adsorption membranes and will build on the proof of principle that the previous project provided. This will consolidate and extend the work of PhD candidate Pina Fritz at the Wageningen University and NTU (Singapore), who will defend her thesis on the 13th of December.

The planned experiments and literature study enable setting up a large project collaboration between the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT), Technical University Delft (TUD), Wageningen University and University Twente (UT) on Electrically Switchable Adsorption (ELSA) membranes in industrial separation processes.

Adsorption and desorption

Adsorptive separation processes are generally highly effective and can also be very selective. However, the desorption process of the isolated components is often very resource intensive, both in terms of energy and in terms of the use of chemicals.

Their operation is generally in large columns, which necessitates the use of large volumes of costly resins having limited lifetime and which require complex operational procedures.

Electric vs chemical potential

By not making use of a chemical potential for regeneration, but of an electric potential, it is possible to have a much more efficient desorption while maintaining the same selectivity as in existing adsorptive processes.

The first results of the ELSA project are expected early next year.


This project is co-funded by TKI-E&I with the supplementary grant 'TKI- Toeslag' for Topconsortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI’s) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.