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Asahi Kasei Develop Novel Membrane System to Dehydrate Organic Solvents Without Heat or Pressure

Asahi Kasei has developed a novel membrane system for dehydrating organic solvents for pharmaceutical applications without the application of heat or pressure. This system can contribute to the optimisation of manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry. The company has now begun collaborating with Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., of Osaka, Japan, for the practical verification of this system.

Used to dissolve active ingredients, organic solvents play an essential role in the manufacturing process of pharmaceuticals. To achieve the desired results in various processes such as reactions and crystallisation, such solvents need to be dehydrated. Standard dehydration methods such as vacuum distillation require the application of heat. These methods are not only time- and energy-intensive, but may also have undesired effects on the pharmaceutical intermediates contained in the organic solution, especially those which are sensitive to heat.

Asahi Kasei is a global manufacturer of membranes which are utilised in various industries, including virus removal filters and water treatment membranes. The company has now further leveraged its expertise to develop a novel dehydration membrane system including a hollow-fiber module and draw solution for organic solvents in the pharmaceutical manufacturing process. This system utilises the phenomenon of osmosis, in which a liquid moves through a semipermeable membrane due to concentration differences. The development of the forward osmosis membrane and the draw solution enables the removal of water without the loss of pharmaceutical intermediates.

Being able to handle highly soluble liquids such as tetrahydrofuran (THF), toluene, or methanol this membrane system can dehydrate organic solvents below 1,000 ppm without applying heat or pressure, thereby minimising the impact on heat-sensitive pharmaceutical intermediates. In addition, compared to the conventional technology of vacuum distillation, the process time required can be shortened and energy consumption can be significantly reduced. The membrane system can be used with a variety of organic solvents, including alcohols, ethers, esters, and hydrocarbons.

To evaluate the performance of the membrane system in practical use, Asahi Kasei is collaborating with Osaka-based Ono Pharmaceutical, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Japan. Commercialisation is targeted for 2027.

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