Engineering the performance of mixed matrix membranes for gas separations
MetadataShow full item record
Mixed matrix membranes that comprise domains of organic and inorganic components are investigated in this research. Such materials effectively circumvent the polymeric 'upper bound trade-off curve' and show properties highly attractive for industrial gas separations. Nevertheless, lack of intrinsic compatibility between the organic polymers and inorganic fillers poses the biggest challenge to successful fabrication of mixed matrix membranes. Consequently, control of the nanoscale interface between the sieve and polymer has been the key technical challenge to the implementation of composite membrane materials. The overarching goal of this research was to devise and explore approaches to enhance the performance of mixed matrix membranes by properly tailoring the sieve/polymer interface. In an effort to pursue the aforementioned objective, three approaches were developed and inspected: (i) use of silane coupling agents, (ii) hydrophobizing of sieve surface through alcohol etherification reactions, and (iii) a two-step modification sequence involving the use of a Grignard reagent. A comparison was drawn to evaluate these methodologies and the most effective strategy (Grignard treatment) was selected and further investigated. Successful formulation and characterization of mixed matrix membranes constituting zeolite 4A modified via the Grignard treatment are described in detail. Membranes with impressive improvements in gas separation efficiency and mechanical properties were demonstrated. The basis for the improvements in polymer/sieve compatibility enabled by this specific process were proposed and investigated. A key aspect of the present study was illuminating the detailed chemical mechanisms involved in the Grignard modification. Systematic characterization and carefully designed experiments revealed that the formation of distinctive surface structures is essentially a heterogeneous nucleation process, where Mg(OH)2 crystals grow from the nuclei previously extracted from zeolites. In addition to the main work, discovery of sonication-induced dealumination of zeolites was made during the systematic exploration of Grignard chemistry. The new procedure employing sonication can potentially be applied to prepare zeolites with a variety of Si/Al ratios under relatively mild conditions. The last part of this thesis focused on development of a technique to generalize the highly specific Grignard treatment to inorganic materials other than zeolite 4A. This work delivered composite membranes with improved interfacial adhesion. Moreover, research revealed the effect of surface nuclei density on the ultimate morphology of deposited nanostructures and how different surface morphologies influence polymer/filler interaction in composite membranes. Methods were devised to tailor the morphologies of such structures in order to optimize adhesion enhancement. The acquired results demonstrated the potential of extending this modification process to a broad domain of materials and render it a general methodology for interfacial adhesion promotion.