Carbon membranes for efficient water-ethanol separation

S Gravelle and H Yoshida and L Joly and C Ybert and L Bocquet, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 145, 124708 (2016).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4963098

We demonstrate, on the basis of molecular dynamics simulations, the possibility of an efficient water-ethanol separation using nanoporous carbon membranes, namely, carbon nanotube membranes, nanoporous graphene sheets, and multilayer graphene membranes. While these carbon membranes are in general permeable to both pure liquids, they exhibit a counter- intuitive "self-semi-permeability" to water in the presence of water- ethanol mixtures. This originates in a preferred ethanol adsorption in nanoconfinement that prevents water molecules from entering the carbon nanopores. An osmotic pressure is accordingly expressed across the carbon membranes for the water-ethanol mixture, which agrees with the classic van't Hoff type expression. This suggests a robust and versatile membrane-based separation, built on a pressure-driven reverse-osmosis process across these carbon-based membranes. In particular, the recent development of large-scale "graphene-oxide" like membranes then opens an avenue for a versatile and efficient ethanol dehydration using this separation process, with possible application for bio-ethanol fabrication. Published by AIP Publishing.

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