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Polymersomes-based high-performance reverse osmosis membrane for desalination

Qi, Saren, Fang, Wangxi, Siti, Winna, Widjajanti, Wentalia, Hu, Xiao, Wang, Rong
Journal of membrane science 2018 v.555 pp. 177-184
abscisic acid, artificial membranes, composite polymers, cost effectiveness, crosslinking, desalination, energy, nanomaterials, permeability, polyamides, polymerization, reverse osmosis, salinity, seawater, sodium chloride
Polymersomes-based reverse osmosis (RO) membrane (PBM) for desalination was reported for the first time. An amphiphilic tri-block copolymer, PMOXA6-PDMS35-PMOXA6 (ABA), was self-assembled to form polymersomes with spherical nanostructure. The polymersomes were then immobilized into a polyamide network via an interfacial polymerization reaction on top of polysulfone membrane substrate. Under a moderate salinity condition, the PBM presented almost doubled water permeability and higher salt rejection than the control membrane without polymersomes in the polyamide network. Based on the results of a series of characterization the better water permeation of the PBM is believed to result from larger globular features containing highly water permeable polymersomes, which created a higher void fraction in the selective layer, whereas the highly cross-linked polyamide selective layer as well as the polymersome bilayer’s impermeability to NaCl may led to the enhanced salt rejection. Surprisingly, at an elevated NaCl concentration up to 32,000 ppm, the PBM exhibited ~ 60% water flux enhancement and even better NaCl rejection as compared with commercial seawater RO membranes. In general, the PBM presented a water flux similar to the RO membranes with loose polyamide matrix (BW30), but a rejection behavior close to the dense RO membranes (SW30). This study provides a paradigm shift in developing new-generation RO membranes for energy and cost-effective desalination process.