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Underlying Roles of Polyol Additives in Promoting CO2 Capture in PEI/Silica Adsorbents

by Jan Michael Y Carrillo, William T Heller, Bobby G Sumpter
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Solid-supported amines having low molecular weight branched poly(ethylenimine) (PEI) physically impregnated into porous solid supports are promising adsorbents for CO2 capture. Co-impregnating short-chain poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) together with PEI alters the performance of the adsorbent, delivering improved amine efficiency (AE, mol CO2 sorbed / mol N) and faster CO2 uptake rates. To uncover the physical basis for this improved gas capture performance, we probed the distribution and mobility of the polymers in the pores via small angle neutron scattering (SANS), solid-state NMR, and molecular dynamic (MD) simulation studies. SANS and MD simulations reveal that PEG displaces wall-bound PEI, making amines more accessible for CO2 sorption. Solid-state NMR and MD simulation suggest intercalation of PEG into PEI domains, separating PEI domains and reducing amine-amine interactions, providing potential PEG-rich and amine-poor interfacial domains that bind CO2 weakly via physisorption while providing facile pathways for CO2 diffusion. Contrary to a prior literature hypothesis, no evidence is obtained for PEG facilitating PEI mobility in solid supports. Instead, the data suggest that PEG chains coordinate to PEI, form larger bodies with reduced mobility compared to PEI alone. We also demonstrate promising CO2 uptake and desorption kinetics at varied temperatures, given by favorable amine distribution.