PEBAX-based mixed matrix membranes for post-combustion carbon capture
Bryan, Nicholas James
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Polymeric membranes exhibit a trade-off between permeability and selectivity in gas separations which limits their viability as an economically feasible post-combustion carbon capture technology. One approach to improve the separation properties of polymeric membranes is the inclusion of particulate materials into the polymer matrix to create what are known as mixed matrix membranes (MMMs). By combining the polymer and particulate phases, beneficial properties of both can be seen in the resulting composite material. One of the most notable challenges in producing mixed matrix membranes is in the formation of performance-hindering defects at the polymer-filler interface. Non-selective voids or polymer chain rigidification are but two non-desirable effects which can be observed. The material selection and synthesis route are key to minimising these defects. Thin membranes are also highly desirable to achieve greater gas fluxes and improved economical separation processes. Hence smaller nano-sized particles are of particular interest to minimise the disruption to the polymer matrix. This is a challenge due to the tendency of some small particles to form agglomerations. This work involved introducing novel nanoscale filler particles into PEBAX MH1657, a commercially available block-copolymer consisting of poly(ethylene oxide) and nylon 6 chains. Poly(ether-b-amide) materials possess an inherently high selectivity for the CO2/N2 separation due to polar groups in the PEO chain but suffer from low permeabilities. Mixed matrix membranes were fabricated with PEBAX MH1657 primarily using two filler particles, nanoscale ZIF-8 and novel nanoscale MCM-41 hollow spheres. This work primarily investigated the effects of the filler loading on both the morphology and gas transport properties of the composite materials. The internal structure of the membranes was examined using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and the gas transport properties determined using a bespoke time-lag gas permeation apparatus. ZIF-8 is a zeolitic imidazolate framework which possesses small pore windows that may favour CO2 transport over that of N2. ZIF-8-PEBAX membranes were successfully synthesised up to 7wt.%. It was found that for filler loadings below 5wt.%, the ZIF-8 was well dispersed within the polymer phase. At these loadings modest increases in the CO2 permeability coeffcient of 0-20% compared to neat PEBAX were observed. Above this 5wt.% loading large increases in both CO2, N2 and He permeability coeffcients coincided with the presence of large micron size clusters formed of hundreds of filler ZIF-8 particles. The increases in permeability were attributed to voids observed within the clusters. MCM-41 is a metal organic framework that has seen notable interest in the field of carbon capture, due to its tunable pore size and ease of functionalisation. Two types of novel MCM-41 hollow sphere (MCM-41-HS) of varying pore size were incorporated into PEBAX and successfully used to fabricate MMMs up to 10wt.%. SEM showed the MCM-41 generally interacted well with the polymer with no signs of voids and was generally well dispersed. However, some samples of intermediate loading in both cases showed highly asymmetric distribution of nanoparticles and high particle density regions near one external face of the membrane which also showed the highest CO2 permeability coeffcients. It is suspected that these high permeabilities are due to the close proximity of nanoparticles permitting these regions to act in a similar way to percolating networks. It was determined that there was no observable effect of the varying pore size which was expected given the transport in the pores should be governed by Knudsen diffusion.