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New heating technique improves zeolite membrane performance

By Chemical Engineering |

Adding a rapid heat-treatment step to the process of making zeolite membranes improves separation performance by eliminating grain boundary defects, according to researchers from the University of Minnesota (UMN; Minneapolis, Minn.; www.umn.edu), who published their study in the July 31 issue of Science. The study could inform efforts aimed at producing zeolite films for gas, liquid and vapor membrane separations processes, as well as for hybrid membrane-distillation processes that separate industrial mixtures. If zeolite membranes could be fabricated to deliver expected performance in flux and selectivity, they could reduce the energy costs associated with distillation by 10-fold, notes professor Michael Tsapatsis, a UMN chemical engineer who led the research. Large-scale production of zeolite films has been plagued by the formation of cracks and grain boundary defects. Membrane defects degrade selectivity by allowing molecules to bypass the zeolite pores that are designed to discriminate among mixture components. Grain boundary defects form during calcination, a heating process required to remove structure-directing agents (SDAs) from zeolite pores. SDAs are added during synthesis to define zeolite pore size and shape. The research…
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