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Oxygen Separation Using Magnetic Membranes

National Energy Technology Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Research is active on the patent pending technology titled, “Mechanical Membrane for the Separation of a Paramagnetic Constituent from a Fluid.” This invention is available for licensing and/or further collaborative research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.


In spite of its established role in reliably providing high-throughput, high-purity oxygen for gasification, cryogenic distillation-based air separation is costly and energy-intensive to operate. The process accounts for up to 15% of the total gasification plant capital cost, and consumes a major portion of in-plant power use. Other oxygen supply technologies, such as pressure swing adsorption and polymeric membranes, are available but cannot provide oxygen at a high enough purity (>95%) for gasification or are only commercially viable on a small scale.

Since the first cryogenic oxygen production patent issued to Carl Von Linde in 1903, the technology has been refined through engineering configuration and optimized for greatest economic efficiency. However, given the current limitations for further improvements in the efficiency of cryogenic air separation plants the development of technology that would significantly lower its costs is unlikely. Based on the current state of technology, there is great incentive to develop new approaches for oxygen separation.

This invention describes the application of mechanical membranes for the separation of oxygen from air at ambient temperatures. The membranes are composed of multiple pores having magnetic regions that augment a magnetic field on one side of the pore structure while reducing the magnetic field on the opposite side of the pore. The technology enables the large-scale exploitation of the differences in magnetic susceptibilities between a paramagnetic component such as oxygen which is attracted toward the magnetic pore field and diamagnetic components such as nitrogen, which are repelled. This method is anticipated to overcome the limitations of current separation methods allowing for energy efficient separation of highly purified oxygen.



  • Reduces energy requirement for oxygen separation
  • Provides a scalable oxygen separation process
  • Operates at or near ambient temperature
  • Lowers capital investment requirement
Applications and Industries
  • Oxygen separation for fossil fuel-based gasification
  • Other applications where high purity oxygen is required including the production of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, chemicals, petrochemicals, pulp and paper, glass, and cement
More Information

U.S. Patent No. 9,636,631 issued on May 2, 2017, titled “Mechanical Membrane for the Separation of a Paramagnetic Constituent from a Fluid.”

Inventor: David Maurice

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 9,636,631
Mechanical membrane for the separation of a paramagnetic constituent from a fluid
The disclosure provides an apparatus and method for the separation of a paramagnetic component from a mixture using a mechanical membrane apparatus. The mechanical membrane comprises a supporting material having a plurality of pores where each pore is surrounded by a plurality of magnetic regions. The magnetic regions augment a magnetic field on one side of the supporting material while mitigating the field to near zero on the opposite side. In operation, a flow of fluid such as air comprising a paramagnetic component such as O.sub.2 is directed toward the mechanical membrane, and the paramagnetic component is typically attracted toward a magnetic field surrounding a pore while dimagnetic components such as N.sub.2 are generally repelled. As some portion of the fluid passes through the plurality of magnetic apertures to the opposite side of the mechanical membrane, the mechanical membrane generates a fluid enriched in the paramagnetic component. Alternately, the magnetic field may act to repel the paramagnetic component while diamagnetic components such as N.sub.2 are generally unaffected and pass to the opposite side of the mechanical membrane.
National Energy Technology Laboratory 05/02/2017
Technology Status
Development StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated

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To: Jessica Lamp<>