New Fabrication Methods to Increase the Efficacy of Membrane Separation Technology

A reduction in oxygen levels occurs when oil contaminates water by creating a film that initiates toxic substances. This can result in the death of aquatic animals and plants, pollute the soil, and ultimately endanger human health.

Schematic diagram of nanofiber membrane fabrication. Image Credit: Chen et al.

Isolating oil from polluted water is very important. Current methods can be expensive and challenging, and some may introduce additional pollutants into the system. For example, membrane materials can serve as a barrier to intercept oil, but their efficiency is low and they are not suitable for long-term use.

In Biointerphases, the journal AVS is published by AIP publishing, Chinese researchers developed a fabrication technique to increase the longevity and efficacy of membrane separation technology. This technology is more than 99% effective in isolating petroleum ether-in-water emulsions.

The team created nanofibrous membranes by electrospinning, in which droplets of liquid polymer are electrified and stretched to create fibers. They increased the surface roughness of the membrane by loading it with silver nanoparticles.

In water, this rough surface pushes up a stable layer of water, which acts as a barrier to prevent oil droplets from penetrating the membrane.

This hydration layer efficiently inhibits the passage of oil droplets, reduces membrane pollution and improves the permeability and separation efficiency of composite membranes.

Jindan Wu, Study Author, Zhejiang University of Science Technology

Silver nanoparticles help enhance the antibacterial properties of the membrane. Integrating them reduces the risk of membrane corrosion which can be caused by microorganisms.

We have found that the surface roughness of the membrane and the strength of the hydration layer are important factors affecting its separation performance and anti-fouling ability.. The concept of particle deposition on nanofibrous membranes also has potential for broad applications with other materials.

Jindan Wu, Study Author, Zhejiang University of Science Technology

The output current capability of this fabrication method is relatively low. However, the group believes that developing the material will lead to innovative solutions to tackle water pollution.

Water pollution is caused by many sources, and oily wastewater is just one of them. It is very important to develop materials that can treat dyes, heavy metals and bacteria present in water.

Jindan Wu, Study Author, Zhejiang University of Science Technology


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