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Synthesis of polymer-based composite membranes for desalination and gas separation

posted on 15.05.2017, 04:21 by He, Li
Membranes are widely used in industrial separation processes, particularly for gas separation and desalination processes. To develop membrane materials with improved permeability, selectivity can achieve more energy-efficient membrane separations and reduce costs. Since composite membranes offer improved performance, the aim of this research is to develop polymer-based composite membranes with improved performance for gas separation and water desalination applications. First, in order to obtain a composite membranes with high chlorine tolerance, a carbonaceous poly(furfuryl alcohol) (PFA) composite membrane was synthesized at a low temperature carbonation by formation and post-treatment of a thin PFA layer on porous polymer substrates. The carbonaceous PFA membrane exhibits high selectivity and excellent chemical stability in seawater desalination. The low-temperature carbonization method developed in this study is promising for developing a wide range of other carbonaceous polymer composite membranes for water desalination. Next, in order to apply PFA to other applications, understanding the effects of polymerization conditions on the properties of the PFA composite membrane is required. The PFA membrane was fully characterized in terms of microstructure and separation properties. Suitable synthesis conditions for the preparation of PFA composite membranes with smooth surfaces and uniform structure were (1) FA/ H2SO4 molar ratios: 74-300, (2) polymerization temperatures: 80-100°C and (3) solvents: ethanol and acetone. The preparation conditions were also optimized. The PFA composite membrane prepared with a FA/ H2SO4 molar ratio of 250, a polymerization temperature of 80°C and with ethanol as the solvent exhibited the highest H2/N2 ideal selectivity (αH2/N2=24.9), and a H2 permeability of 206 Barrers. This work led to a better understanding of the effect of the preparation procedures on the membrane performance. In order to investigate the effects of the incorporation of molecular sieve nanoparticles on the membrane structure and membrane performance, silicalite-poly(furfuryl alcohol) (PFA) mixed matrix composite membranes were successfully synthesized based on the best synthesis condition obtained previously. The silicalite-PFA mixed matrix composite membrane with 20% w/w silicalite loading had a high ideal selectivity (αo2/N2= 3.5 and αco2/N2= 5.4) and a good permeability (Po2= 821.2, Pco2= 1263.7, PN2= 233.3 Barrers) at room temperature. This membrane can be a good candidate for oxygen enrichment applications. Finally, in order to investigate the effects of the incorporation of silicalite nanocrystals on the desalination property of polyamide membranes, silicalite nanocrystals were also incorporated into polyamide matrix to synthesize silicalite-polyamide mixed matrix membranes. With an increase in the loading of silicalite nanocrystals, the water flux of silicalite-polyamide mixed matrix composite membranes increased whereas the salt selectivity significantly decreased. The silicalite-polyamide mixed matrix composite membrane prepared from TMC-hexane with 0.5% (w/v) silicalite had water flux of 2.7×10-6 m3/m2·s and NaCl rejection of 50% at a feed pressure of 34.5 bar which 2000 ppm salt solution was used as the feed. The silicalite-polyamide mixed matrix composite membrane is promising for developing high water flux composite membranes for water desalination. In this research, composite membranes with improved permeability, selectivity and chemical resistance were successfully synthesized for desalination and gas separation. For desalination, carbonaceous PFA composite membranes with high chlorine tolerance and silicalite-PA mixed matrix composite membranes with high salt rejection and water flux were successfully obtained. For gas separation, an optimized composite membranes PFA synthesis condition was found and silicalite-PFA mixed matrix composite membranes with high O2/N2 separation were successfully synthesized.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Huanting Wang

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Chemical Engineeting


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Engineering