KAUST team develops carbon molecular membranes

KAUST team develops carbon molecular membranes

The Engineer | KAUST team develops carbon molecular membranes

Researchers at KAUST in Saudi Arabia have developed a nanofiltration membrane claimed to overcome the limitations of those that are polymer-based.

According to postdoc Rifan Hardian, most polymer-based membranes exhibit poor chemical stability; they usually need additional chemical crosslinkers to improve their stability, which complicates their manufacture. Many membranes also tend to lose their performance as they swell and age and they may even break down to release trace contaminants.

Hardian and his KAUST colleagues Mahmoud A. Abdulhamid and Gyorgy Szekely claim to have overcome these drawbacks by creating a new kind of carbon molecular sieve (CMS) membrane that does not require additional crosslinkers.

The membrane is based on 6FDA-DMN, a polymer that can be formed into a flat, porous membrane with good thermal stability. Baking the polymer membrane at 400–600oC for several hours gradually burned off some of its chemical groups to leave a tough membrane made entirely of carbon. Electron microscope images showed that at the highest temperatures, this carbonisation process also shrank the membrane’s pores considerably.