Zeolitic imidazolate framework (ZIF-8) based polymer nanocomposite membranes for gas separation

As synthesised ZIF-8 nanoparticles (size ∼ 60 nm and specific surface area ∼ 1300-1600 m2 g-1) were directly incorporated into a model polymer matrix (Matrimid® 5218) by solution mixing. This produces flexible transparent membranes with excellent dispersion of nanoparticles (up to loadings of 30 wt%) with good adhesion within the polymer matrix, as confirmed by scanning electron microscopy, dynamic mechanical thermal analysis and gas sorption studies. Pure gas (H2, CO2, O2, N2 and CH4) permeation tests showed enhanced permeability of the mixed matrix membrane with negligible losses in selectivity. Positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS) indicated that an increase in the free volume of the polymer with ZIF-8 loading together with the free diffusion of gas through the cages of ZIF-8 contributed to an increase in gas permeability of the composite membrane. The gas transport properties of the composite membranes were well predicted by a Maxwell model whilst the processing strategy reported can be extended to fabricate other polymer nanocomposite membranes intended for a wide range of emerging energy applications.