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Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Functionalized Polymer Mesh: An Environmentally Friendly and Efficient Tool for Oil/Water Separation

Chen, Faze, Song, Jinlong, Liu, Ziai, Liu, Jiyu, Zheng, Huanxi, Huang, Shuai, Sun, Jing, Xu, Wenji, Liu, Xin
ACS sustainable chemistry 2016 v.4 no.12 pp. 6828-6837
air, atmospheric pressure, durability, nylon, oils, polyesters, polyurethanes, sustainable technology, toxic substances
Oil/water separation has been addressed by various materials characterized with superwettability, but most of the methods involve corrosive or toxic chemicals which will cause environmental concerns. Proposed herein is an environmentally friendly method to realize oil/water separation. Nylon mesh is exposed to atmospheric pressure plasma for surface modification, by which micro-/nanostructures and oxygen-containing groups are created on nylon fibers. Consequently, the functionalized mesh possesses superhydrophilicity in air and thus superoleophobicity underwater. The water prewetted mesh is then used to separate oil/water mixtures with the separation efficiency above 97.5% for various oil/water mixtures. Results also demonstrate that the functionalized nylon mesh has excellent recyclability and durability in terms of oil/water separation. Additionally, polyurethane sponge slice and polyester fabric are also functionalized and employed to separate oil/water mixtures efficiently, demonstrating the wide suitability of this method. This simple, green, and highly efficient method overcomes a nontrivial hurdle for environmentally safe separation of oil/water mixtures and offers insights into the design of advanced materials for practical oil/water separation.