Title page for ETD etd-11082012-113518

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Surapathi, Anil Kumar
Author's Email Address anils@vt.edu
URN etd-11082012-113518
Title Functionalized Single Walled Carbon Nanotube/Polymer Nanocomposite Membranes for Gas Separation and Desalination
Degree PhD
Department Chemical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Marand, Eva Committee Chair
Davis, Richey M. Committee Member
Johnson, Karl Committee Member
Martin, Stephen M. Committee Member
  • Polyamide
  • Poly(acrylates)
  • Carbon Nanotube
  • Desalination
  • Gas Adsorption
  • Gas Permeation
  • Functionalization
  • Plasma Etching
  • Nanocomposite membrane
Date of Defense 2012-10-26
Availability unrestricted
Polymeric membranes for gas separation are limited in their performance by a trade-off between permeability and selectivity. New methods of design are necessary in making membranes, which can show both high permeability and selectivity. A mixed matrix membrane is one such particular design, which brings in the superior gas separation performance of inorganic membranes together with the easy processability and price of the polymers. In a mixed matrix membrane, the inorganic phase is dispersed in the polymeric continuous phase. Nanocomposite membranes have a more sophisticated design with a thin separation layer on top of a porous support.

The objective of this research was to fabricate thin SWNT nanocomposite membranes for gas separation, which have both high permeability and selectivity. SWNT/polyacrylic nanocomposite membranes were fabricated by orienting the SWNTs by high vacuum filtration. The orientation of SWNTs on top of the porous support was sealed by UV polymerization. For making these membranes, the CNTs were purified and cut into small open tubes simultaneously functionalizing them with COOH groups. Gas sorption of CO2 in COOH functionalized SWNTs was lower than in purified SWNTs. Permeabilities in etched membrane were higher than Knudsen permeabilities by a factor of 8, and selectivities were similar to Knudsen selectivities.

In order to increase the selectivities, SWNTs were functionalized with zwitterionic functional groups. Gas sorption in zwitterion functionalized SWNTs was very low compared to in COOH functionalized SWNTs. This result showed that the zwitterionic functional groups are kinetically blocking the gas molecules from entering the pore of the CNT. SWNT/polyamide nanocomposite membranes were fabricated using the zwitterion functionalized SWNTs by interfacial polymerization. The thickness of the separation layer was around 500nm. Gas permeabilities in the CNT membranes increased with increasing weight percentage of the SWNTs. Gas permeabilities were higher in COOH SWNT membrane than in zwitterion SWNT membrane. Gas selectivities were similar to the Knudsen selectivities, and also to the intrinsic selectivities in the pure polyamide membrane.

The water flux in SWNT-polyamide membranes increased with increasing weight percentage of zwitterion functionalized SWNTs, along with a slight increase in the salt rejection. Membranes exhibited less than 1% variability in its performance over three days.

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