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Langmuir. 2008 Aug 5;24(15):7663-73. doi: 10.1021/la800179z. Epub 2008 May 29.

Creation of functional membranes using polyelectrolyte multilayers and polymer brushes.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.


Over the last 15 years, the layer-by-layer deposition of polyelectrolytes and the growth of polymer brushes from surfaces have become established techniques for the formation of a wide range of thin films. This article discusses the use of these techniques in creating the skin layer of nanofiltration or gas-separation membranes and in functionalizing the interior of membranes for protein adsorption or catalysis. In the case of separation membranes for nanofiltration, the minimal thickness of layer-by-layer films allows for high flux, and the wide range of available polyelectrolytes that can form these films permits the tailoring of membranes for separations such as water softening, the reduction of F (-) concentrations, and the removal of dyes from wastewater. For gas separation, polymers grown from surfaces are more attractive than layer-by-layer coatings because most polyelectrolyte films are not highly gas-selective. Cross-linked poly(ethylene glycol dimethacrylate) films grown from porous alumina exhibit CO(2)/CH(4) selectivities of around 20, and the careful selection of monomers should further improve the selectivity of similar membranes. Both layer-by-layer methods and polymer brushes can also be employed to modify the interior of membranes, and we have utilized these techniques to create catalysts, antibody arrays in membranes, and membrane absorbers for protein purification. Polymer brushes are particularly attractive because they allow the absorption of multilayers of protein to yield membranes with binding capacities as high as 150 mg protein/cm(3). Some challenges in the practical implementation of these systems, such as the economical formation of membranes using highly permeable polymeric supports, and future directions in research on membrane modification with multilayer films and polymer brushes are also discussed herein.

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