Hydrocarbon separation relies on energy-intensive distillation. Membrane technology can offer an energy-efficient alternative but requires selective differentiation of crude oil molecules with rapid liquid transport. We synthesized multiblock oligomer amines, which comprised a central amine segment with two hydrophobic oligomer blocks, and used them to fabricate hydrophobic polyamide nanofilms by interfacial polymerization from self-assembled vesicles. These polyamide nanofilms provide transport of hydrophobic liquids more than 100 times faster than that of conventional hydrophilic counterparts. In the fractionation of light crude oil, manipulation of the film thickness down to ~10 nanometers achieves permeance one order of magnitude higher than that of current state-of-the-art hydrophobic membranes while retaining comparable size- and class-based separation. This high permeance can markedly reduce plant footprint, which expands the potential for using membranes made of ultrathin nanofilms in crude oil fractionation.
KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-10-03
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): OSR-2017-CRG6-3441.01
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by ExxonMobil Research and Engineering. R.D. acknowledges support from UKRI EPSRC grant EP/M01486X; J.K. and A.G.L. acknowledge support from European Research Council (ERC) grant 786398; S.L. acknowledges support from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (OSR-2017-CRG6-3441.01). Z.J. acknowledges support from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (CBET-EPSRC EP/R018847). We thank A. Genovese (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Core Labs) for the EDX-TEM element mapping. A.G.L., Z.J., S.L., R.D., and J.X. are inventors on UK patent application no. 2005106.6 submitted by Imperial College London for the use of multi-oligomer monomers in interfacially polymerized film.