A new polymer has been developed by Cardiff University which could result in a more efficient process in the separation of gas mixtures for chemical engineering and energy generation.

Gas separation is essential for many industrial processes including obtaining nitrogen or oxygen from air and purifying natural gas or hydrogen.

Currently, the most energy-efficient method for separating gases involves polymer membranes. However, most polymers have low permeability or are not selective towards one gas over another. Gas separation would be cheaper and use less energy if polymer membranes could be made both highly permeable and selective.

The new polymer separates gas mixtures based on the different sizes of the gas molecules. The polymer’s molecular structure is such that it cannot fill space efficiently. This leaves space for smaller molecules of gas to move through quickly. The structure traps the larger molecules which creates a sieve-like effect and traps them.

The Cardiff team have applied for a patent to protect this new polymerisation process.

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