Team achieves more efficient gas separations using new polymer that selectively sieves gas molecules

Jan 17, 2013

A new polymer developed by researchers at Cardiff University may lead to more efficient large-scale separation of gas mixtures for chemical engineering and energy generation.

is crucial for many including obtaining nitrogen or oxygen from air and purifying natural gas or hydrogen. Currently, the most energy efficient method for separating gases involves polymer membranes, however, most polymers either let gases pass through slowly (i.e. have low permeability) or are not selective towards one gas over another. Gas separation would be cheaper and use less energy if polymer membranes could be made both highly permeable and selective.

A team from the University's School of Chemistry reports in the journal Science a new polymer that efficiently separates gas mixtures based on the different sizes of the . The polymer's molecular structure is very contorted so that it cannot fill space efficiently, therefore leaving gaps for small gas molecules to move through quickly. However, the transport of larger gas molecules is hindered by the polymer's extreme rigidity so that it acts as an efficient molecular sieve.

The Cardiff's team's collaborators at the Institute on , ITM-CNR, Italy, confirmed that membranes prepared from the polymer are both highly permeable to gases and demonstrate remarkable selectivity for smaller gases such as hydrogen or oxygen over larger gases such as nitrogen or methane.

Professor Neil McKeown, a member of the School of Chemistry's team behind the research said: "The preparation of this highly rigid and contorted polymer required us to develop a new polymerisation reaction. In fact we used some very old chemistry – the formation of Tröger's base, which is a compound that was first prepared 125 years ago. This simple chemistry allows us to prepare highly rigid ladder polymers of high from readily available starting materials. In addition to making polymers for efficient gas separation membranes, we anticipate that this new process will be useful for preparing polymers for a variety of different applications".

Cardiff University has applied for a patent covering this new polymerisation process.

Explore further: A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

More information: "An Efficient Polymer Molecular Sieve for Membrane Gas Separations," by M. Carta et al. Science, 2013.

Related Stories

Chemists offer new hydrogen purification method

Feb 15, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- President Barack Obama's pursuit of energy independence promises to accelerate research and development for alternative energy sources -- solar, wind and geothermal power, biofuels, hydrogen ...

Researchers create carbon dioxide-separating polymer

Aug 01, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels for energy and transportation, and it is widely accepted that it is one of the primary greenhouse ...

'Crispy noodle' chemistry could reduce carbon emissions

May 06, 2008

A new material developed in Manchester, which has a structure that resembles crispy noodles, could help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped out and drive the next generation of high-performance ...

Recommended for you

A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

Sep 19, 2014

Membrane proteins and large protein complexes are notoriously difficult to study with X-ray crystallography, not least because they are often very difficult, if not impossible, to crystallize, but also because ...

Base-pairing protects DNA from UV damage

Sep 19, 2014

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have discovered a further function of the base-pairing that holds the two strands of the DNA double helix together: it plays a crucial role in protecting ...

Smartgels are thicker than water

Sep 19, 2014

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, including cosmetics, medicine, and energy. But the transformation process, called gelation, where manufacturers ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

packrat
not rated yet Jan 17, 2013
Could make for some interesting fuel cell possibilities..