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Comparison of performance and biofouling resistance of thin-film composite forward osmosis membranes with substrate/active layer modified by graphene oxide

Li, Yuan, Yang, Yu, Li, Chen, Hou, Li-an
RSC advances 2019 v.9 no.12 pp. 6502-6509
antibacterial properties, biofilm, biofouling, graphene oxide, hydrophilicity, osmosis, polyamides, porosity, roughness, thin film composite membranes
In this study, the influence mechanisms of graphene oxide (GO) on the membrane substrate/active layer for improving the water flux and anti-biofouling ability of thin-film composite (TFC) membranes in forward osmosis (FO) were systematically investigated. We fabricated a pristine TFC membrane, a TFC membrane in which the substrate or polyamide active layer was modified by GO (TFN-S membrane or TFN-A membrane), and a TFC membrane in which both the substrate and active layer were functionalized by GO (TFN-S + A membrane). Our results showed that the TFN-S membrane possesses a higher water flux (∼27.2%) than the TFN-A because the substrate that contained GO could improve the porous structure and porosity, while the TFN-A membrane exhibited a lower reverse salt flux and higher salt rejection than the TFN-S membrane, indicating that the surface properties played a more important role than the substrate for the salt rejection. Regarding the biofouling experiment, the TFN-A and TFN-S + A membranes facilitated a higher antifouling performance than the TFN-S and TFC membranes after 72 h of operation because of the greater hydrophilicity, lower roughness and facilitated higher bactericidal activity on the GO-modified surface. In addition, the biovolume and biofilm thickness of the TFN-A and TFN-S + A membranes were found to follow the same trend as flux decline performance. In conclusion, the substrate modified by GO could greatly improve the water flux, whereas the GO-functionalized active layer is favorable for salt rejection and biofouling mitigation. The advantage of TFN-A in biofouling mitigation suggests that the antibacterial effect of GO has a stronger influence on biofouling control than the changes of hydrophilicity and roughness.