Development filtration membranes enabling oil purification

Development of filtration membranes enabling oil purification

2:39 AM, 13th February 2012
Development of filtration membranes enabling oil purification
Schematic diagram of the ultra-high performance filtration membrane. An organic solvent (toluene) permeates at high speed through the carbon membrane (DLC Layer), which has a thickness of only 35 nm, but a model impurity (azobenzene) is stopped by the membrane.

SENGEN, JAPAN: A team of researchers in the Separation Functional Materials Group of the Polymer Materials Unit, National Institute for Materials Science, in joint research with the NIMS Transmission Electron Microscopy Station, Research Network and Facility Services Division, succeeded in developing extremely thin porous carbon membranes with pores having a diameter of approximately 1 nm.

Filtration membranes with organic solvent resistance will open a promising technology for a wide range of applications, including production of ultra-low sulfur diesel oil, waste water treatment processes for oil sand development, and recycling of catalysts in the chemical industry, among others. However, the conventional filtration membranes were easily deteriorated by acids, alkalines, heat, etc and it was difficult to pass solvents other than water through the membranes with fine pores of about 1 nm order.

In the present research, the NIMS team succeeded in fabricating filtration membranes which have diamond-like mechanical strength but is also extremely thin at approximately 35 nm in thickness. Because a very large number of flow channels with diametre of approximately 1 nm are formed in the interior of the carbon nanosheet, ultrafast permeation of organic solvents is possible. The permeation rate of hexane, which is one constituent of oil and the rejection of azobenzene, which was used as a model impurity, was more than 90 per cent. Processing speed was approximately 3 orders faster than that of commercial filters with similar performance.

When an organic solvent passes through a channel, its velocity increases in inverse proportion to the viscosity of the solvent. In other words, organic solvents flow through the channel faster as their viscosity decreases. In the present research, it was found that this phenomenon (viscous permeation) can be observed even in ultra-small flow paths with a diameter of 1 nm. The discovery that a molecular-scale flow is dependent on the macroscopic physical property of viscosity is particularly surprising.

© National Institute for Materials Science News

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