186 MEMBRANE TECHNOLOGY Vol. 3
ultraﬁltration, reverse osmosis, and electrodialysis were all established processeswith large plants installed around the world.The principal development in the 1980s was the emergence of industrialmembrane gas separation processes. The ﬁrst signiﬁcant development was theMonsantoPrism
membraneforhydrogenseparation,inthelate1970s(6).Withinafewyears,Dowwasproducingsystemstoseparatenitrogenfromair,andCynaraand Separex were producing systems to separate carbon dioxide from methane.Theseapplicationsofmembranegasseparationarenowwellestablished,andsev-eralthousandmembraneplantshavebeeninstalled.Gasseparationtechnologyisevolving and expanding rapidly, and further substantial growth will be seen, par-ticularly in the separation of vapor/gas mixtures such as propylene from nitrogenand propane and butane from methane. The ﬁnal development of the 1980s wasthe introduction of the ﬁrst commercial pervaporation systems for dehydrationof alcohol by GFT, a small German engineering company. By 1990, GFT had soldmore than 100 plants. Many of these plants are small, but the technology hasbeen demonstrated and a number of other important pervaporation applicationsare now at the pilot-plant stage.
Types of Membrane
Although this article is limited to synthetic membranes, excluding all biologicalstructures, the topic is still large enough to include a wide variety of membranesthat differ in chemical and physical composition and in the way they operate. Inessence, a membrane is nothing more than a discrete, thin interface that moder-ates the permeation of chemical species in contact with it. This interface may bemolecularly homogeneous, that is, completely uniform in composition and struc-ture, or it may be chemically or physically heterogeneous, for example, containingholes or pores of ﬁnite dimensions. A normal ﬁlter meets this deﬁnition of a mem-brane, but, by convention, the term
is usually limited to structuresthat permeate dissolved or colloidal species, whereas the term
is used todesignate structures that separate particulate suspensions. The principal typesof membrane are shown schematically in Figure 1 and are described brieﬂy in thefollowing subsections.
Isotropic Microporous Membranes.
is verysimilar in its structure and function to a conventional ﬁlter. It has a rigid, highlyvoidedstructurewithrandomlydistributed,interconnectedpores.However,thesepores differ from those in a conventional ﬁlter by being extremely small, of theorder of 0.01–10
m in diameter. All particles larger than the largest pores arecompletelyrejectedbythemembrane.Particlessmallerthanthelargestpores,butlargerthanthesmallestporesarepartiallyrejected,accordingtotheporesizedis-tribution of the membrane. Particles much smaller than the smallest pores willpass through the membrane. Thus, separation of solutes by microporous mem-branes is mainly a function of molecular size and pore size distribution. In gen-eral, only molecules that differ considerably in size can be separated effectivelyby microporous membranes, for example, in ultraﬁltration and microﬁltration.
Nonporous, Dense Membranes.
Nonporous, dense membranes
consistof a dense ﬁlm through which permeants are transported by diffusion under the