Journal: Nature Communications
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Ultrafast solvent separation
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A selectively porous membrane with a very high permeability for organic solvents could slash the energy consumption and operating costs of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.
Most chemical reactions and purification steps involve dissolving the relevant molecules in an organic solvent, which then has to be removed to isolate the reaction product. Solvent removal typically involves energy-intensive evaporation or distillation.
An economical, environmentally friendly alternative would be to use a membrane that allowed the solvent to rapidly pass through while blocking other molecules. Deakin University researchers have been spearheading work to develop a suitable membrane.
The membrane is made from a two-dimensional nanomaterial called boron nitride, which is stable under the harsh acidic or basic conditions commonly encountered in chemical processes. The team developed a way to incorporate amino groups onto boron nitride’s surface, boosting its polarity so that it could be dispersed in water for membrane fabrication. The resulting membranes showed high solvent flux and separation performance.
- Nature Communications 9, 1902 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04294-6