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Advanced Materials for Membrane Fabrication and Modification
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Subject Sylbus: Membranes Principles and Materials - (Current)
A membrane is an engineered barrier that controls the sorting of components by selectively allowing molecules of a certain size to pass between the incoming feed stream and an outgoing permeate stream. The membranes are made from advanced polymers, hybrid materials and molecular sieves, with pore sizes tailored for the intended use.
The success of aqueous membranes used to produce purified water demonstrates the potential for lowering energy consumption. Spiral-wound module membranes dramatically reduced the cost of producing clean water, though large size differences between water molecules and contaminants made those processes technically easier than gas and liquid organics separations.
For both applications, he and co-author Chen Zhang point out that to be practical, new materials must be scalable — able to be packed tightly to provide large amounts of surface area inside small modules. That is best done using hollow-fiber membranes produced using advanced versions of processes that were originally developed to make ordinary textile fibers. The two authors also argue for entropic separation techniques that are enabled by limiting the ability of molecules to diffuse through pores, depending on their molecular geometry.
A molecule whose geometry makes it difficult to diffuse through a narrow opening may be excluded, while a molecule of approximately the same size but different geometry may diffuse through. When you reduce the number of options, you are raising the free energy.
Research in the Koros lab has been supported for more than 20 years by the U. Koros also has research projects with major energy producers and chemical companies, as well as the Georgia Research Alliance.
In their paper, Koros and Zhang, a research engineer in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, identified five materials technologies with potential for improving gas separation processes. These include:. Liquid separation processes also have significant opportunities for improvement based on new materials being developed.
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These processes include:. The Nature Materials article focused on progress that had been made in the technology and future potential, with highlights on recent advances in Koros lab at Georgia Tech. The goal was to encourage development of new materials and make membrane scientists aware of the most promising paths. This research was supported by the Office of Energy Science of the U.