Developing Synthesis Techniques for Zeolitic-Imidazolate Framework Membranes for High Resolution Propylene/Propane Separation
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Propylene/propane separation is one of the most challenging separations, currently achieved by energy-intensive cryogenic distillation. Despite the great potentials for energy-efficient membrane-based propylene/propane separation processes, no commercial membranes are available due to the limitations (i.e., low selectivity) of current polymeric materials. Zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs) are promising membrane materials primarily due to their well-defined ultra-micropores with controllable surface chemistry along with their relatively high thermal/chemical stabilities. In particular, ZIF-8 with the effective aperture size of ~ 4.0 A has been shown very promising for propylene/propane separation. Despite the extensive research on ZIF-8 membranes, only a few of ZIF-8 membranes have displayed good propylene/propane separation performances presumably due to the challenges of controlling the microstructures of polycrystalline membranes. Since the membrane microstructures are greatly influenced by processing techniques, it is critically important to develop new techniques. In this dissertation, three state-of-the-art ZIF membrane synthesis techniques are developed. The first is a one-step in-situ synthesis technique based on the concept of counter diffusion. The technique enabled us to obtain highly propylene selective ZIF-8 membranes in less than a couple of hours with exceptional mechanical strength. Most importantly, due to the nature of the counter-diffusion concept, the new method offered unique opportunities such as healing defective membranes (i.e., poorly-intergrown) aswell as significantly reducing the consumption of costly ligands and organic solvents. The second is a microwave-assisted seeding technique. Using this new seeding technique, we were able to prepare seeded supports with a high packing density in a couple of minutes, which subsequently grown into highly propylene-selective ZIF-8 membranes with an average propylene/propane selectivity of ~40. The last is a heteroepitaxial growth technique. The first well-intergrown membranes of ZIF-67 (Co-substituted ZIF-8) by heteroepitaxially growing ZIF-67 on ZIF-8 seed layers were reported. The ZIF-67 membranes exhibited impressively high propylene/propane separation capabilities. The presence of a methanol co-solvent in the growth solution was critically important to reproducibly prepare high quality ZIF-67 membranes. Furthermore, when the tertiary growth of ZIF-8 layers was applied to the ZIF-67 membranes, the membranes exhibited unprecedentedly high propylene/propane separation factors of ~ 200 possibly due to enhanced grain boundary structure.
Kwon, Hyuk Taek (2015). Developing Synthesis Techniques for Zeolitic-Imidazolate Framework Membranes for High Resolution Propylene/Propane Separation. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from