Membranes for Gas Separation

  • Christine Pengilley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The effective separation of ammonia from the synthesis loop in ammonia synthesis plants is an important step in its manufacture. This work presents the use of nanocomposite MFI zeolite membranes prepared by a pore-plugging method for this separation process. Performance of a zeolite membrane is highly dependent on the operating conditions. Therefore, the influences of differential pressure, temperature, sweep gas flow, feed gas flow and gas composition are studied experimentally.Transport of NH3 in this membrane is by surface diffusion in the intracrystalline (zeolite) pores in parallel with capillary condensation in the intercrystalline (non-zeolite) pores. The separation of NH3 from a mixture with H2 and N2 is by preferential adsorption of NH3, which hinders the permeation of weakly adsorbed H2 and N2. Differential pressure has only relatively small effects in the pressure range 300kPa – 1550kPa. Increase in sweep flow rate has little effect on NH3 gas permeance, but H2 and N2 permeances increase thereby decreasing the selectivities. Increase in feed flowrate also has little effect on NH3 permeance. However, the N2 and H2 permeances increase and there is a subsequent decrease in selectivities. Membrane performance was found to be highly dependent on temperature. NH3 permeance in the mixture increases linearly with temperature. NH3 selectivity was found to increase with temperature up to 353K after which it starts to decrease due to N2 and H2 permeances increasing with temperatures beyond 353K (αNH3/N2 = 46 and αNH3/H2 = 15) and is therefore the optimum temperature for separation.A potential barrier model is developed to describe the hindering effect of NH3 on H2 and N2 permeance. The model fails to predict correctly H2 and N2 permeances in the ternary mixture using pure gas (H2 and N2) permeances. Binary mixture permeation H2/N2 studies showed that there are diffusion effects (single file diffusion) that have not been taken into account in the potential barrier model. When permeances of the individual components in the binary mixture are used in the model instead of the pure gas permeances, there is an improved agreement between experimental and predicted results.
Date of Award28 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSemali Perera (Supervisor) & Barry Crittenden (Supervisor)


  • Ammonia gas
  • Ceramic membranes
  • MFI Zeolite

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