Perfluoropolymer Membranes for Separations and Electrochemical Processes
Pp. 104-127 (24)
Perfluoropolymers are characterized by outstanding chemical, thermal and solvent resistance,
therefore they represent natural candidates for demanding environments. In membrane separations and
electrochemical processes perfluoropolymers enable substantial cost reductions, energy savings and
environmental benefits. This contribution is aimed at giving an overview of the materials chemistry of
perfluoropolymer membranes currently used in gas and vapour separations, in the chlor-alkali industry
and in fuel cells, and on the perspectives for new challenging applications.
Glassy amorphous perfluoropolymers with a large spectrum of permeability and selectivity - Teflon AF,
Hyflon AD, Cytop - are applied today in gas and vapor separation and in membrane contactors. Their
use in petrochemistry instead of energy intensive unit operations and for process intensification is
hindered by the polymer permeability - selectivity trade-off. Mixed matrix or hybrid polymer - filler
membranes are in principle able to overcome this limitation. Examples are given of the opportunities
offered by such hybrid membranes.
Polyperfluorosulfonic acids (Nafion, Hyflon Ion, 3M and the like) are today the materials of choice for
low temperature fuel cells, but modest durability, low performances and high costs limit their use in
niche applications. At medium temperatures - 90-160°C - Nafion loses water, proton conductivity and
mechanical resistance, and degrades irreversibly from 110°C on. Several research strategies, such as
better polymers, compounding with fillers, alternative proton conducting systems, scaffolds and
reinforcements, have improved this picture in the last years, but have not found a viable solution yet for
the huge automotive market. A combination of the incremental progress achieved by each of these
strategies holds promise to find a solution.
Hyflon AD, Teflon AF, Cytop, Polyperfluorosulfonic acids, mixed matrix membranes, gas and
vapor separation, electrochemical processes.
Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Chimica e dei Materiali; INSTM Consortium; and Istituto per la Tecnologia delle Membrane, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (ITM-CNR), Via Pietro Bucci 45/A, 87036 Rende, Italy