Interface engineering in zeolite-polymer and metal-polymer hybrid materials

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Lee, Jung-Hyun
Meredith, J. Carson
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Inorganic-polymer hybrid materials have a high potential to enable major advances in material performance in a wide range of applications. This research focuses on characterizing and tailoring the physics and chemistry of inorganic-polymer interfaces in fabricating high-performance zeolite-polymer mixed-matrix membranes for energy-efficient gas separations. In addition, the topic of novel metal nanoparticle-coated polymer microspheres for optical applications is treated in the Appendix. In zeolite/polymer mixed-matrix membranes, interfacial adhesion and interactions between dope components (zeolite, polymer and solution) play a crucial role in determining interfacial morphology and particle dispersion. The overarching goal is to develop accurate and robust tools for evaluating adhesion and interactions at zeolite-polymer and zeolite-zeolite interfaces in mixed-matrix membrane systems. This knowledge will be used ultimately for selecting proper materials and predicting their performance. This project has two specific goals: (1) development of an AFM methodology for characterizing interfacial interactions and (2) characterization of the mechanical, thermal, and structural properties of zeolite-polymer composites and their correlation to the zeolite-polymer interface and membrane performance. The research successfully developed an AFM methodology to determine interfacial interactions, and these were shown to correlate well with polymer composite properties. The medium effect on interactions between components was studied. We found that the interactions between two hydrophilic silica surfaces in pure liquid (water or NMP) were described qualitatively by the DLVO theory. However, the interactions in NMP-water mixtures were shown to involve non-DLVO forces arising from bridging of NMP macroclusters on the hydrophilic silica surfaces. The mechanism by which nanostructured zeolite surfaces enhanced in zeolite-polymer interfacial adhesion was demonstrated to be reduced entropy penalties for polymer adsorption and increased contact area. ¡¡¡¡¡¡Metal nanoparticle (NP)-coated polymer microspheres have attracted intense interest due to diverse applications in medical imaging and biomolecular sensing. The goal of this project is to develop a facile preparation method of metal-coated polymer beads by controlling metal-polymer interactions. We developed and optimized a novel solvent-controlled, combined swelling-heteroaggregation (CSH) technique. The mechanism governing metal-polymer interaction in the fabrication was determined to be solvent-controlled heteroaggregation and entanglement of NPs with polymer, and the optical properties of the metal/polymer composite beads were shown to make them useful for scattering contrast agent for biomedical imaging and SERS (Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering) substrates.
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