Synthesis and Characterization of Silica-Tantala Microporous Membranes for Gas Separations Fabricated Using Chemical Vapor Deposition
Composite membranes consisting of microporous tantalum-doped silica layers supported on mesoporous alumina substrates were fabricated using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) in both thermal decomposition and counter-flow oxidative deposition modes. Tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS) was used as the silica precursor and tantalum (V) ethoxide (TaEO) as the tantalum source. Amounts of TaEO from 0 mol% to 40 mol% were used in the CVD gas mixture and high H2 permeances above 10−7 mol m−2 s−1 Pa−1 were obtained for all conditions. Close examination was made of the H2/CH4 and O2/CH4 selectivities due to the potential use of these membranes in methane reforming or partial oxidation of methane applications. Increasing deposition temperature correlated with increasing H2/CH4 selectivity at the expense of O2/CH4 selectivity, suggesting a need to optimize membrane synthesis for a specific selectivity. Measured at 400 °C, the highest H2/CH4 selectivity of 530 resulted from thermal CVD at 650 °C, whereas the highest O2/CH4 selectivity of 6 resulted from thermal CVD at 600 °C. The analysis of the membranes attempted by elemental analysis, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy revealed that Ta was undetectable because of instrumental limitations. However, the physical properties of the membranes indicated that the Ta must have been present at least at dopant levels. It was found that the pore size of the resultant membranes increased from 0.35 nm for pure Si to 0.37 nm for a membrane prepared with 40 mol% Ta. Similarly, an increase in Ta in the feed resulted in an increase in O2/CH4 selectivity at the expense of H2/CH4 selectivity. Additionally, it resulted in a decrease in hydrothermal stability, with the membranes prepared with higher Ta suffering greater permeance and selectivity declines during 96 h of exposure to 16 mol% H2O in Ar at 650 °C.