High-performance polybenzimidazole membranes for helium extraction from natural gas

Xuerui Wang, Meixia Shan, Xinlei Liu, Meng Wang, Cara M. Doherty, Dmitrii Osadchii, Freek Kapteijn

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Increasing helium use in research and production processes necessitates separation techniques to secure sufficient supply of this noble gas. Energy-efficient helium production from natural gas is still a big challenge. Membrane gas separation technology could play an important role. Herein, a novel poly(p-phenylene benzobisimidazole) (PBDI) polymeric membrane for helium extraction from natural gas with low He abundance is reported. The membranes were fabricated by a facile interfacial polymerization at room temperature. The thin and defect-free membrane structure was manipulated by the confined polymerization of monomers diffusing through the interface between two immiscible liquids. Both He/CH4 selectivity and He permeance are competitive over those of other commercial perfluoropolymers. Even at low He content of 1%, separation performance of the PBDI membrane transcended the current upper bound. The unprecedented selectivity (>1000) together with the excellent stability (∼360 h) endows PBDI membranes with a great potential for energy-efficient industrial recovery and production of this precious He resources from reservoirs with low abundance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20098-20103
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • He separation
  • interfacial polymerization
  • membrane
  • natural gas
  • polybenzimidazole

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