Carbon molecular sieves (CMS) have become an increasingly important class of adsorbents for application in the separation of gas molecules that vary in size and shape. A study is in progress at the Illinois State Geological Survey to determine whether Illinois basin coals are suitable feedstocks for the production of CMS and to evaluate their potential application in gas separation processes of commercial importance. Chars were prepared from Illinois coal in a fixed-bed reactor under a wide range of heat treatment and activation conditions. The effects of various coal/char pretreatments, including coal demineralization, preoxidation, char activation, and carbon deposition, on the molecular sieve properties of the chars were also investigated. Chars with commercially significant BET surface areas of 1500 m2/g were produced by chemical activation using potassium hydroxide as the activant. These high-surface-area (HSA) chars had more than twice the adsorption capacity of commercial carbon and zeolite molecular sieves. The kinetics of adsorption of various gases, e.g., N2, O2, CO2, CH4, CO and H2, on these chars at 25??C was measured. The O2/N2 molecular sieve properties of one char prepared without chemical activation were similar to those of a commercial CMS. On the other hand, the O2/N2 selectivity of the HSA char was comparable to that of a commercial activated carbon, i.e., essentially unity. Carbon deposition, using methane as the cracking gas, increased the O2/N2 selectivity of the HSA char, but significantly decreased its adsorption capacity. Several chars showed good potential for efficient CO2/CH4 separation; both a relatively high CO2 adsorption capacity and CO2/CH4 selectivity were achieved. The micropore size distribution of selected chars was estimated by equilibrium adsorption of carbon dioxide, n-butane and iso-butane at O??C. The extent of adsorption of each gas corresponded to the effective surface area contained in pores with diameters greater than 3.3, 4.3 and 5.0 A??, respectively. Kinetic and equilibrium adsorption data provided complementary information on the molecular sieving capabilities and microstructure of the prepared chars. ?? 1993.
Additional publication details
Production of carbon molecular sieves from Illinois coal