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Carbon Nanomembranes with Sub-Nanometer Channels for Molecular Separation in Organic Liquids

Project description

Filtering molecules with thin carbon nanomembranes

Increasing the energy efficiency of operations is a primary concern for energy-intensive industries. Organic solvent nanofiltration offers a sustainable and reliable alternative to current molecular separation methods. This membrane-based separation method has the potential to achieve more than 90 % energy savings over conventional distillation in the chemical industry. The main challenge this technology faces is the lack of materials with high flux, selectivity and chemical resistance. Funded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the CNSOL project will address this challenge by constructing a carbon nanomembrane with an ultrathin selective layer, uniform pore sizes and a cross-linked network. Carbon nanomembranes are 2D materials that enable chemically stable separating layers. Their molecular structure is tuneable by synthesis with purpose-built molecules.


Energy efficiency is a key principle of the EU’s 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and implementation of this strategy requires innovation in energy intensive industries. Organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN) meets this need—it is a membrane-based separation with the potential to achieve more than 90% energy savings over conventional distillation in the energy intensive chemical industry. Current challenges for OSN are the need for materials with high flux, high selectivity and high chemical resistance. This proposal advocates meeting this need by constructing a membrane with: i) an ultrathin selective layer, ii) uniform pore sizes and iii) a cross-linked network. Carbon nanomembranes (CNMs) are 2D materials made by crosslinking of self-assembled monolayers; this results in a film with single-molecule thickness. CNMs mainly comprise carbon, resulting in chemically-stable separating layers. Also, their molecular structure is tunable by synthesis with purpose-designed molecules. Recently, the Fellow was part of the team which created the first 1.2-nm thin CNM with a high density of sub-nm channels, providing ultrafast permeation of water while blocking the passage of most other molecules.
This project will combine the Fellow’s expertise in the development of single-molecule-thick films with the host’s expertise in OSN and interfacial synthesis; it aims to design new nanomaterials for advancing molecular separation in organic liquids. The objectives of the project are to: 1) demonstrate the ability of freestanding CNMs for OSN; 2) explore the tunability of CNMs at a molecular level for improved selectivity; 3) create nanocomposite membranes comprising interfacially synthesized mesoporous films supporting CNM separating layers.
This highly innovative and interdisciplinary research will promote the Fellow’s career prospects by widening her research perspectives, enriching her research experiences and expanding her network with European colleagues.



Net EU contribution
€ 224 933,76
South kensington campus exhibition road
SW7 2AZ London
United Kingdom

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London Inner London — West Westminster
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00