Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemical & Biochemical Engineering

First Advisor

Richard D. Noble

Second Advisor

Douglas L. Gin

Third Advisor

Wei Zhang


Solid-liquid composites (gels) have a combination of properties that afford new material applications in which high solute diffusion is desirable. These composites have a soft-solid mechanical integrity and will not flow under gravity, but entrain a liquid matrix (i.e. 60-98 mass %) which allows for high diffusion and high reactivity. Room temperature ionic liquid (RTILs) are molten organic salts with a melting point below room temperature and negligible vapor pressure. If the RTILs are used as the liquid component of a gel, then the gel matrix will not evaporate (unlike other organic solvents) and may be used for long term applications. This thesis research applies RTIL gels for two new applications; carbon dioxide/nitrogen separation and chemical warfare agent (CWA) barrier and decontamination. Separating CO2 from the flue gas of coal and gas fired power-plants is an increasingly economically and environmentally important gas separation. In this first study, RTIL gels are cast in a supported membrane and gas permeability and ideal selectivity are measured. The RTIL matrix has an inherent affinity for CO2 and provides a high diffusion, hence high permeability (i.e. 500-700 barrer). The solidifying component is a low molecular-weight organic gelator (LMOG) which through physical bonding interactions (i.e. hydrogen bonding, pi-pi stacking and van der Walls forces) forms an entangled network which provides mechanical stability (i.e. increase trans-membrane pressure required to expel selective material from the support). In these studies two LMOGs and five RTILs are used to make supported gel membranes and determine gas permeability and temperature dependent trends. The second application for RTIL gels is a decontaminating barrier for CWAs and toxic industrial compounds (TICs). In these studies a layer of RTIL gel is applied on top of a substrate contaminated with a CWA simulant (i.e. chloroethylethylsulfide, CEES). The gel performs well as a barrier, preventing CEES vapor from penetrating the gel. Simultaneously, the RTIL gel actively decontaminated the substrate by reacting CEES with a sacrificial amine. The RTIL gel barrier was able to decontaminate up to 98% of the CEES applied to a painted steel substrate. Two gel barriers are tested: 1) RTIL gel with a LMOG solidifying agent, and 2) RTIL gel with a polymeric cross-linked network solidifying agent. The polymer gel provided a more mechanically robust barrier, however, the LMOG gel decontaminated at a faster rate. These new applications are but two of many possible applications for RTIL gels. Their negligible vapor pressure affords long term application in ambient conditions and their unique chemistry allows them to be tailored for specific applications.