The integration of membranes inside a catalytic reactor is an intensification strategy to combine separation and reaction steps in one single physical unit. In this case, a selective removal or addition of a reactant or product will occur, which can circumvent thermodynamic equilibrium and drive the system performance towards a higher product selectivity. In the case of an inorganic membrane reactor, a membrane separation is coupled with a reaction system (e.g., steam reforming, autothermal reforming, etc.), while in a membrane bioreactor a biological treatment is combined with a separation through the membranes. The objective of this article is to review the latest developments in membrane reactors in both inorganic and membrane bioreactors, followed by a report on new trends, applications, and future perspectives.
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