Defense Date


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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Hani El-Kaderi


Abstract NEW SYNTHETIC STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVED GAS SEPARATION BY NANOPOROUS ORGANIC POLYMERS Suha S. Altarawneh, Ph.D. The emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel combustion is a major cause of climate change. Therefore, the efficient separation of CO2 from mixtures of gases such as flue gas and impure sources of CH4 (e.g. natural gas and landfill gas) is an essential step in meeting the ever increasing demands on natural gas and creating a cleaner environment. Carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) is one of the methods employed for gas separation using chemisorption and/or physisorption processes. Several materials such as porous polymers and amine solutions have been used as gas adsorbents. However, the amount of energy required for the adsorbent regeneration is one of the main concerns that needs to be addressed. In this regard, porous organic polymers (POPs) with defined porosity and preferential binding affinity for CO2 over N2 and CH4 are some of the most attractive materials that could fulfill the above requirement and are also applicable for use in gas storage and separation. Suitable POPs that can be used for gas storage applications need to have high porosity and mechanical stability under high pressure conditions (~100 bar). Alternatively, the most effective POPs in gas separation are those that have preferential binding affinity for CO2 over other gases present at low pressure settings. In all cases, the chemical nature of POPs and their textural properties are key parameters, however, the modest surface area of most POPs limits their efficiency. With the above considerations in mind, the aim of our research is to develop benzimidazole–linked polymers (BILPs) that have variable porosity levels and chemical functionality to enhance gas separation (CO2/CH4, CO2/N2). We have established new synthetic routes that utilize polycondensation reactions between aryl-aldehydes and aryl-o-diamine building units to construct new BILPs with improved gas separation properties. Our strategy targeted structural and textural modifications of BILPs. We used longer linkers (building units) to improve porosity; however, the flexible linkers offered only low porosity due to network interpenetration. To overcome this challenge, a more controlled network growth rate was assessed by adjusting imine-bond formation rates through different acid loading. The acid, HCl, was used to catalyze imine-bond formation. The new resulting acid-catalyzed BILPs have shown an improved porosity up to 92% compared to the non-catalyzed BILPs. We also used the “rational ligand design” approach to introduce new functionalities into BILPs (-OR) to alter the hydrophobic nature of their pores. In this regard, we have illustrated the applicability of this strategy to BILPs containing flexible aryl-o-diamine linkers. The bulky alkoxy groups were incorporated into the aryl-aldehyde building unit prior to polymerization. The resulting polymers have proven that the presence of the bulky pendant alkoxy-chains plays a significant role during the polymerization process which allows for increased control over network formation, and in turn, porosity. Sorption measurements, selectivity, and heats of adsorption data have confirmed the positive impact of the alkoxy-groups and shown that varying the pendant groups is a promising method for designing highly porous BILPs. In addition to pore functionalization with alkoxy-chains, we used pi-conjugated and N-rich building units to prepare new BILPs that have semiconducting properties in addition to their porous nature. This class of BILPs has shown that the extended-conjugated system improved BILPs electronic properties. The other studies performed in this research, involved the use of DFT theory to investigate CO2/BILPs interaction sites and binding affinities. The computational outcomes of DFT have shown that (C-H) bond of the aryl system is a possible site for CO2 interaction beside the free-N side and hydrogen bonding. All new polymers were characterized by spectral and analytical characterization methods and their sorption data were collected to evaluate their capability as candidates for gas separation applications.


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