Abstract: Opportunities abound to extend membrane markets for gas and vapor separations; however, the existing membrane materials, membrane structures and formation processes are inadequate to fully exploit these opportunities. The requirements for viability of membranes vary somewhat with each application. Nevertheless, the key requirements of durability, productivity and separation efficiency must be balanced against cost in all cases. The various ‘contender’ technologies for large scale gas separation membrane applications and the gas transport mechanisms are considered. The current spectrum of applications of gas separation membranes include: nitrogen enrichment, oxygen enrichment, hydrogen recovery, acid gas (CO2, H2S) removal from natural gas and dehydration of air and natural gas. The current status and the limitations faced by the available membrane materials for each of these applications are discussed. Two key technical challenges exist. Achieving higher permselectivity for the relevant application with at least equivalent productivity is the first of these challenges. Maintaining these properties in the presence of complex and aggressive feeds is the second challenge. Attractive avenues to overcome these challenges for each application will be presented. Finally, several new membrane applications with immense potential (e.g. fuel cells and olefin–paraffin separations) are discussed.