Cryogenic Separation of Hydrogen Isotopes in Single-Walled Carbon and Boron-Nitride Nanotubes: Insight into the Mechanism of Equilibrium Quantum Sieving in Quasi-One-Dimensional Pores
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Quasi-one-dimensional cylindrical pores of single-walled boron nitride and carbon nanotubes efficiently differentiate adsorbed hydrogen isotopes at 33 K. Extensive path integral Monte Carlo simulations revealed that the mechanisms of quantum sieving for both types of nanotubes are quantitatively similar; however, the stronger and heterogeneous external solid−fluid potential generated from single-walled boron nitride nanotubes enhanced the selectivity of deuterium over hydrogen both at zero coverage and at finite pressures. We showed that this enhancement of the D2/H2 equilibrium selectivity results from larger localization of hydrogen isotopes in the interior space of single-walled boron nitride nanotubes in comparison to that of equivalent single-walled carbon nanotubes. The operating pressures for efficient quantum sieving of hydrogen isotopes are strongly depending on both the type as well as the size of the nanotube. For all investigated nanotubes, we predicted the occurrence of the minima of the D2/H2 equilibrium selectivity at finite pressure. Moreover, we showed that those well-defined minima are gradually shifted upon increasing of the nanotube pore diameter. We related the nonmonotonic shape of the D2/H2 equilibrium selectivity at finite pressures to the variation of the difference between the average kinetic energy computed from single-component adsorption isotherms of H2 and D2. In the interior space of both kinds of nanotubes hydrogen isotopes formed solid-like structures (plastic crystals) at 33 K and 10 Pa with densities above the compressed bulk para-hydrogen at 30 K and 30 MPa.
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