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Mitigating The Agglomeration Of Nanofiller In A Mixed Matrix Membrane By Incorporating An Interface Agent

Manh-Tuan Vu, Gloria Monsalve-Bravo, Rijia Lin, Mengran Li, Suresh Bhatia, Simon Smart

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Nanodiamonds (ND) have recently emerged as excellent candidates for various applications including membrane technology due to their nanoscale size, non-toxic nature, excellent mechanical and thermal properties, high surface areas and tuneable surface structures with functional groups. However, their non-porous structure and strong tendency to aggregate are hindering their potential in gas separation membrane applications. To overcome those issues, this study proposes an efficient approach by decorating the ND surface with polyethyleneimine (PEI) before embedding it into the polymer matrix to fabricate MMMs for CO2/N2 separation. Acting as both interfacial binder and gas carrier agent, the PEI layer enhances the polymer/filler interfacial interaction, minimising the agglomeration of ND in the polymer matrix, which is evidenced by the focus ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM). The incorporation of PEI into the membrane matrix effectively improves the CO2/N2 selectivity compared to the pristine polymer membranes. The improvement in CO2/N2 selectivity is also modelled by calculating the interfacial permeabilities with the Felske model using the gas permeabilities in the MMM. This study proposes a simple and effective modification method to address both the interface and gas selectivity in the application of nanoscale and non-porous fillers in gas separation membranes.