Modified mesoporous silica membranes for separation applications

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Kim, Hyung Ju
Jones, Christopher W.
Nair, Sankar
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The main theme of this dissertation is the fabrication and analysis of modified mesoporous silica membranes for separation applications. Synthesis methods for mesoporous silica membranes have been developed to enhance the transport performance and quality of the membranes, such as permeability, pore volume, and surface area. Then, synthesized membranes were modified with different organic groups to tailor selectivity in separations. The collected studies of modified mesoporous silica membranes showed that appropriate functionalization on newly synthesized novel membranes leads to promising structural and permeation properties. First, a seeded growth method was developed for synthesis of MCM-48 membranes on alumina supports, thereby extending the seeded growth technique used for zeolite membranes to mesoporous silica membrane synthesis. The surface properties of the MCM-48 membranes were then modified by silylation with hexamethyldisilazane (HMDS). In comparison to MCM-48 membranes previously synthesized by the in situ growth technique, much less silica infiltration into the alumina support was observed. The pore structure of the MCM-48 membranes demonstrated that a large accessible pore volume was available for molecular permeation and pore modification to tailor selectivity. The gas permeation properties of the calcined and silylated MCM-48 membranes were consistent with a Knudsen-like mechanism, albeit with a substantial influence of gas-solid interactions in the mesopores. The silylated MCM-48 membranes were evaluated for pervaporative separation of ethanol (EtOH), methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), and ethyl acetate (EA) from their dilute aqueous solutions. The synthesized membranes exhibited high pervaporative separation factors and organic fluxes. The selective separation of organic/water mixtures with MCM-48 membranes were attributed to both the organophilic nature of the surface and the effective pore size of the silylated mesopores. Next, the synthesis and organic/water separation properties of mesoporous silica membranes supported on low-cost and scalable polymeric (polyamide-imide) hollow fibers and modified by trimethylsilylation with HMDS was studied. Thin, defect-free membranes that exhibited high gas permeances consistent with Knudsen-like diffusion through the mesopores were prepared. Silylation of these membranes did not affect the integrity of the mesoporous silica structure and the underlying polymeric hollow fiber, but led to capping of the surface silanol groups in the mesopores with trimethylsilyl groups. The silylated mesoporous membranes were evaluated for pervaporative separation of EtOH, MEK, EA, iso-butanol, and n-butanol from their dilute aqueous solutions. The membranes showed higher separation factors than those of flat membranes, along with high organic fluxes. The large increase in hydrophobicity of the membranes upon silylation allowed upgrading of the feed mixtures to permeate streams with considerably higher organic content. The selective separation of organic/water mixtures with the fiber-supported mesoporous silica membranes was attributed to both the organophilic nature of the surface (yielding good adsorption selectivity) and the effective pore size of the silylated mesopores (giving good fluxes). Comparison with other types of organic/water separation membranes revealed that the present silylated membrane platform shows good promise for use in organic/water separation applications due to its high flux, scalable and low-cost fabrication methodology, and good separation factors that can be further enhanced by tailoring the mesopore modification chemistry. Further, the gas transport properties of aziridine-functionalized mesoporous silica membranes on polymeric hollow fibers have also investigated. The mesoporous membranes were amine-functionalized with aziridine and their transport properties were studied to understand the effects of surface functionalization on gas separations. This new hybrid aminosilica membrane showed interesting and counter-intuitive N₂ selective permeation properties in dry CO₂/N₂ separations. Detailed characterization of the membrane structure and its permeation behavior showed that such behavior was due to the strong adsorption of CO₂, leading to reduced gas flux because of CO₂-induced amine crosslinking in the mesopores. This hyper-branched aminosilica membrane showed CO₂ selective properties when applied to humid gas permeation. Water molecules in the humid gas affected the adsorption of CO₂ molecules by causing a lower degree of crosslinking, allowing facilitated transport of CO₂.
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