Effect of Surface Chemistry on Confined Phase Behavior in Nanoporous Media: An Experimental and Molecular Modeling Study

E Lowry and M Piri, LANGMUIR, 34, 9349-9358 (2018).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.8b00986

It is well accepted that nanopore size is a controlling parameter in determining the phase behavior of confined adsorbate molecules. Despite this knowledge, the quantitative effect of surface chemistry on the confined phase behavior is a factor that remains obfuscated. Obtaining a complete understanding of the variables controlling confined phase behavior is a critical step in developing more complete equations of state for predictive modeling. To this end, a combined experimental and molecular modeling study was conducted to investigate the effects of surface chemistry and wetting on the confined phase behavior of propane and n-butane in modified and unmodified silica MCM-41. Isotherms were measured in four types of silica MCM-41 modified with varying sizes of alkyl groups to determine the effects of increasing surface modification. Results showed that increased pore surface coverage of carbon resulted in a notable change in the capillary condensation pressures, adsorption enthalpy, and confined critical temperature of the adsorbate. Correlations between the surface coverage of carbon and the confined critical temperature were presented and supported by thermodynamic arguments. The primary conclusions were partially supported by hybrid molecular dynamics-Monte Carlo simulations of propane adsorption in models of the four types of experimental adsorbents. Several differences were noted and explained between the experimental and modeling results. Energetic heterogeneity on the surface of the modified MCM-41 adsorbents as well as differences in adsorbate entropy induced by surface features and chemistry were suggested as primary driving factors for the observed trends. The results of this work have direct implications for improving understanding of confined phase behavior in materials of varying surface chemistries.

Return to Publications page