Flexible and reusable carbon nano-fibre membranes for airborne contaminants capture

Al-Attabi, R. et al (2021). “Flexible and reusable carbon nano-fibre membranes for airborne contaminants capture.” Science of the Total Environment 754, 142231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142231

Abstract: Airborne aerosol pollutants generated from combustion vehicles exhausts, industrial facilities and microorganisms represent serious health challenges. Although membrane separation has emerged as a technique of choice for airborne contaminants removal, allowing for both size exclusion and surface adsorption. Here, electrospun carbon nanofibre mats were formed from poly(acrylonitrile) by systematic stabilization and carbonization processes to generate flexible and self-standing membranes for air filtration. The great mechanical flexibility of the electrospun carbon-nanofibre membranes was achieved through extreme quenching conditions on a carbon fibre processing line, allowing for complete carbonization in just 3 min. The carbonized nanofibre membranes, with fibre diameters in the range of 218 to 565 nm exhibited modulus of elasticity around 277.5 MPa. The samples exhibited air filtration efficiencies in the range of 97.2 to 99.4% for aerosol particle in the size of 300 nm based on face velocity, higher than benchmark commercial glass fibre (GF) air filters. The carbonized electrospun nanofibre membranes also yielded excellent thermal stability withstanding temperatures up to 450 °C, thus supporting the development of autoclavable and recyclable membranes. This significant and scalable strategy provides opportunities to mass-produce reusable air filters suitable for otherwise complex airborne pollutants, including volatile organic carbons and bio-contaminants, such as viruses.

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