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Ultrapermeable, Reverse-Selective Nanocomposite Membranes

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Science  19 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5567, pp. 519-522
DOI: 10.1126/science.1069580

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Abstract

Polymer nanocomposites continue to receive tremendous attention for application in areas such as microelectronics, organic batteries, optics, and catalysis. We have discovered that physical dispersion of nonporous, nanoscale, fumed silica particles in glassy amorphous poly(4-methyl-2-pentyne) simultaneously and surprisingly enhances both membrane permeability and selectivity for large organic molecules over small permanent gases. These highly unusual property enhancements, in contrast to results obtained in conventional filled polymer systems, reflect fumed silica–induced disruption of polymer chain packing and an accompanying subtle increase in the size of free volume elements through which molecular transport occurs, as discerned by positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy. Such nanoscale hybridization represents an innovative means to tune the separation properties of glassy polymeric media through systematic manipulation of molecular packing.

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