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Improving Gas Selectivity in Membranes Using Polymer-Grafted Silica Nanoparticles...

Publication Type
Journal Name
ACS Applied Nano Materials
Publication Date
Page Numbers
5895 to 5903

Herein, we demonstrate that tuning of structural parameters and material chemistry enables control of the permeability and selectivity of gases (CO2, He, and CH4) in membranes based on poly(butyl methacrylate)-grafted nanoparticles (PGNs). Our data show that the presence of nanoparticles and the overall dense packing of grafted chains noticeable in PGNs with low grafting density have an adverse effect on the diffusivity of gases. This effect is compensated by an improvement in the solubility of CO2 gas promoted by the silica nanoparticle surface, yielding a substantial improvement in the permeability of CO2 versus CH4. In membranes with high grafting density, changes in the structural arrangements and alterations in the membrane porosity, evident from small-angle X-ray scattering and positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy, positively influence the permeability of He and CO2 gases. In contrast, CH4 permeability in the same membranes is significantly suppressed, suggesting the formation of a unique, highly selective environment for gas separation. As a result, an improvement of up to 50% in selectivity for gas pairs containing large CH4 molecules is observed. Our studies provide fundamental insights into the role that structural parameters play in gas transport through polymer membranes, laying a foundation for the rational design of membranes with improved permeability and selectivity.