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Electrospun Superhydrophobic Membranes with Unique Structures for Membrane Distillation

Liao, Yuan, Loh, Chun-Heng, Wang, Rong, Fane, Anthony G.
ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2014 v.6 no.18 pp. 16035-16048
asymmetric membranes, beverages, desalination, distillation, emulsions, hydrophobicity, nanofibers, porosity, solutes, strength (mechanics), temperature, thermoplastics, waste treatment
With modest temperature demand, low operating pressure, and high solute rejection, membrane distillation (MD) is an attractive option for desalination, waste treatment, and food and pharmaceutical processing. However, large-scale practical applications of MD are still hindered by the absence of effective membranes with high hydrophobicity, high porosity, and adequate mechanical strength, which are important properties for MD permeation fluxes, stable long-term performance, and effective packing in modules without damage. This study describes novel design strategies for highly robust superhydrophobic dual-layer membranes for MD via electrospinning. One of the newly developed membranes comprises a durable and ultrathin 3-dimensional (3D) superhydrophobic skin and porous nanofibrous support whereas another was fabricated by electrospinning 3D superhydrophobic layers on a nonwoven support. These membranes exhibit superhydrophobicity toward distilled water, salty water, oil-in-water emulsion, and beverages, which enables them to be used not only for desalination but also for other processes. The superhydrophobic dual-layer membrane #3S-N with nanofibrous support has a competitive permeation flux of 24.6 ± 1.2 kg m–² h–¹ in MD (feed and permeate temperate were set as 333 and 293 K, respectively) due to the higher porosity of the nanofibrous scaffold. Meanwhile, the membranes with the nonwoven support exhibit greater mechanical strength due to this support combined with better long-term performance because of the thicker 3D superhydrophobic layers. The morphology, pore size, porosity, mechanical properties, and liquid enter pressure of water of these superhydrophobic composite membranes with two different structures are reported and compared with commercial polyvinylidene fluoride membranes.