Effects of Ionic Liquid Nanoconfinement on the CO2/CH4 Separation in Poly(vinylidene fluoride)/1-Ethyl-3-methylimidazolium Thiocyanate Membranes

F Rahmani and P Scovazzo and MA Pasquinelli and S Nouranian, ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES, 13, 44460-44469 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c13169

A combined experimental and molecular dynamics (MD) simulation approach was used to investigate the effects of the nanoconfinement of a highly CO2/CH4-selective ionic liquid (IL), 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium thiocyanate (EMIMSCN), in porous poly(vinylidene fluoride) (PVDF) matrices on the gas separation performance of the resulting membranes. The observed experimental CO2/CH4 permselectivity increased by about 46% when the nominal pore diameter in PVDF, which is a measure of nanoconfinement, decreased from 450 to 100 nm, thus demonstrating nanoconfinement improvements of gas separation. MD simulations corroborated these experimental observations and indicated a suppression in the sorption of CH4 by EMIMSCN when the IL nanoconfinement length decreased within the nonpolar PVDF surfaces. This is consistent with the experimental observation that the CH4 permeance through the IL confined in nonpolar PVDF is significantly less than the CH4 permeance through the IL confined in a water-wetting polar formulation of PVDF. The potential of mean force calculations further indicated that CO2 has more affinity to the nonpolar PVDF surface than CH4. Also, a charge/density distribution analysis of the IL in the PVDF-confined region revealed a layering of the IL into EMIM- and SCN-rich regions, where CH4 was preferentially distributed in the former and CO2 in the latter. These molecular insights into the nanoconfinement-driven mechanisms in polymer/IL membranes provide a framework for a better molecular design of such membranes for critical gas separation and CO2 capture applications.

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