Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Composite nanopolymer membranes for vapor and liquid separations

Technology #cu15076

Currently, polymeric membranes are limited in transport capability due to a tradeoff between diffusivity and selectivity. This nanocomposite polymeric membrane achieves the challenging task of tunable diffusivity without compromising selectivity in gas or liquid separations. It consists of polymethylacrylate (PMA) polymer chains that self-assemble into a crystal lattice structure. The diffusivity can be adjusted for target components by changing the chain length and density. This technology can also be used with rubbery polymers instead of the glassy polymers utilized in the current membranes. This combination extends the lifespan of the membrane significantly, and simplifies and lowers the cost of the separation operations by relying on a single membrane filtration device without the need for constant maintenance.

Polymeric membrane with extended lifespan, minimal maintenance and tunable separation ability for gas and liquid separations

The lifespan of existing polymeric membranes for vapor and liquid separations is relatively short, and their transport capabilities are often limited due to a compromise between diffusivity and selectivity. This technology is a polymeric membrane with tunable diffusivity. These polymer chains create transport channels within the lattice structure, and their length and density can be adjusted to achieve desirable diffusivity for the target components. This technology can be coupled with rubbery polymers to produce membranes with indefinite lifespan that can be used in membrane filtration for a range of applications involving gas and liquid separation.

Experimental data has demonstrated the increase in selectivity of up to 500% and permeability of up to 100% of low molecular weight penetrants using a nanocomposite polymeric membrane when compared to existing pure polymer films.

Lead Inventor:

Sanat Kumar, Ph.D.


  • Method for water filtration
  • Membrane for solvent recovery
  • Selective membrane for separation of air into component gases
  • Technology for the removal of volatile organic compounds from effluent streams
  • Separation of crude natural gas for processing
  • Membrane for charge transport in batteries, solar cells, and fuel cells
  • Detector for exposure to chemical agent


  • High selectivity with tunable diffusivity
  • Long lifespan
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Simplified unit operation
  • Composed of cheap and readily available materials

Patent Information:

Patent Pending (US 20160101386)

Tech Ventures Reference: IR CU15076

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