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NAPOLI Report Summary

Project ID: 639720
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NAPOLI (Nanoporous Asymmetric Poly(Ionic Liquid) Membrane)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2017-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

- What is the problem /issue being addressed?
Nanoporous gradient polymer membranes of high charge density are an innovative type of porous polymer membranes that complement the modern membrane technology. In such membranes, the combination of nanoconfinement and charges superimposed with a gradient property profile (such as composition gradient, pore size gradient, etc.) creates an entirely different physicochemical environment from conventional ones, where unknown diffusion and transportation phenomena are expected to be identified. However, these membranes have been rarely investigated due to difficulties associated with their limited access that retards the progress of their research. The NAPOLI project aims to break through the synthetic barrier and provides easy access to researchers towards nanoporous gradient ionic membranes.

-Why is it important for society?
In parallel, the project tries to understand physics and chemistry occurring in such uniquely structured membranes, and explores their technological use in energy and environment applications. The project will above all bring new knowledge and technology to the current membrane research and in additional promotes the development of new devices that can help address the crisis in energy and environmental fields in our society.

- What are the overall objectives?
The overall objects are to produce a new class of porous membranes to overcome the limitation and bottleneck of the current membrane technology in addressing global energy and environmental issues. The project also targets the training of young researcher to pave their way to the frontiers of the state-of-the-art science and technology.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

From the project beginning till now, the team has fully understood the formation mechanism of the nanoporous gradient poly(ionic liquid) membranes produced in an aqueous ammonia solution. This mechanism has not been so clear for us before the ERC Starting project. The understanding of the membrane formation mechanism helps significantly the expansion of the structure library of porous membranes, and it also inspires us to fabricate nanoporous gradient polymer membranes from other synthetic tools. A systematic investigation of a variety of experimental parameters has been conducted in the project so far, which has enabled the access of a big library of different NAPOLI structures, and improved the structural stability and sustainability of such membranes. Besides, a new fabrication method by photochemistry that we have proposed in our DoA has been developed to fabricate an entirely new group of NAPOLI membranes. It is reasonable to state that we have completed tasks 2.b.1 and 2.b.3 in DoA at this stage of our project.

Along with the rapid progress in synthesis, we have also pushed forward the technological use of such membranes, from the initial detection of organic solvents to the sensing of toxic gas, such as ammonia in a gas state and the weak acids in aqueous solutions. Our latest breakthrough is to use such porous membranes as template to fabricate hybrid nanoporous membranes and porous nitrogen-doped carbon membranes, which have tremendous potential in electrocatalysis.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The structure complexity of NAPOLI membrane has reached a level well beyond the state of the art. For example, we realized different structural gradient elements (cross-linking density, pore size, chemical composition, etc.) along the membrane cross-section. These previously inaccessible structures have opened up a window to explore a wide range of materials applications, especially in sensing external environment and reacting with chemical stimuli. One of our nanoporous poly(ionic liquid)/metal organic framework mixed gradient membranes has exhibited capability to detect ammonia in air, which represents a new way to detect toxic ammonia gas. Along this directions, we expect to invent several new types of sensors, e.g. for indoor gas control or for detection of additives in food industry by the ned of this project.

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