In this paper the effect of zeolite particles incorporated in rubbery polymers on the pervaporation properties of membranes made from these polymers is discussed. Pervaporation of methanol/toluene mixtures was carried out with membranes prepared from the toluene selective polymer EPDM and the methanol selective polymers Viton and Estane 5707. From the results of the pervaporation experiments it could be concluded that the addition of the hydrophilic zeolite NaX as well as the hydrophobic zeolite silicalite-1 leads to an increase in methanol flux and a decrease in toluene flux through the membranes. Pervaporation experiments with bi-layer membranes consisting of an unfilled polymer layer filled with zeolite particles demonstrated that the effect of addition of particles depends on their position in the membrane. Furthermore, the component flux through the membranes as a function of the volume fraction of zeolite is modelled with existing theories describing the permeability of heterogeneous materials. The results show that the apparent permeability of the dispersed phase is lower than the intrinsic permeability of the dispersed phase when the flux through the particle is restricted by the polymer phase. This phenomenon was confirmed by numerical simulation of the transport in the membrane through a plane parallel to the transport direction. The simulations are carried out for an unfilled membrane, a membrane filled with an impermeable particle, a rubber particle and with a particle which shows Langmuir sorption behaviour. The reason for the discrepancy between the apparent permeability and the intrinsic permeability is that the apparent permeability of the zeolite phase is calculated by dividing the flux with the driving force over the entire membrane which is larger than that over the particle. In case of numerical simulation the concentration in every position in the plane is known and therefore the intrinsic permeability of the filler can be calculated on basis of the actual driving force. This treatment results in a permeability which is correct over several orders of magnitude.
Boom, J. P., Boom, J. P., Punt, I. G. M., Zwijnenberg, H. J., Bargeman, D., de Boer, R., ... Smolders, C. A. (1998). Transport through zeolite filled polymeric membranes. Journal of membrane science, 1998(138), 237-258. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0376-7388(97)00228-7