Effect of hydrophilic defects on water transport in MFI zeolites

Thomas Humplik, Rishi Raj, Shalabh C. Maroo, Tahar Laoui, Evelyn N. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The subnanometer pore structure of zeolites and other microporous materials has been proposed to act as a molecular sieve for various water separation technologies. However, due to the increased interaction between the solid and water in these nanoconfined spaces, it is unclear which type of interface, be it hydrophilic or hydrophobic, offers an advantageous medium for enhancing transport properties. In this work, we probe the role of hydrophilic defects on the transport of water inside the microporous hydrophobic MFI zeolite pore structure via combined sorption and high-pressure infiltration experiments. While the inclusion of defects was observed to increase the amount of water within the zeolite pore network by up to 7 times at the saturation pressure, the diffusivity of this infiltrated water was lowered by up to 2 orders of magnitude in comparison to that of water within the nearly defect-free hydrophobic MFI zeolite. Subsequently, the permeability of water within the more defective MFI zeolite was an order of magnitude lower than that of the nearly defect-free zeolite. The results from these experiments suggest that the intrinsic hydrophobic pore structure of MFI zeolites can facilitate faster water transport due to the decreased attraction between the water and the defect-free surface. While the strong attraction of water to the defects allows for water to infiltrate the porous network at lower pressures, the results suggest that this strong attraction decreases the mobility of the infiltrated water. The insights gained from this study can be utilized to improve the design of future membranes for water desalination and other separation techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6446-6453
Number of pages8
Issue number22
StatePublished - Jun 10 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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