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Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Nov 1;44(21):8230-5. doi: 10.1021/es101569p.

Tailoring the structure of thin film nanocomposite membranes to achieve seawater RO membrane performance.

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Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and California NanoSystems Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Herein we report on the formation and characterization of pure polyamide thin film composite (TFC) and zeolite-polyamide thin film nanocomposite (TFN) reverse osmosis (RO) membranes. Four different physical-chemical post-treatment combinations were applied after the interfacial polymerization reaction to change the molecular structure of polyamide and zeolite-polyamide thin films. Both TFC and TFN hand-cast membranes were more permeable, hydrophilic, and rough than a commercial seawater RO membrane. Salt rejection by TFN membranes was consistently below that of hand-cast TFC membranes; however, two TFN membranes exhibited 32 g/L NaCl rejections above 99.4%, which was better than the commercial membrane under the test conditions employed. The nearly defect-free TFN films that produced such high rejections were achieved only with wet curing, regardless of other post-treatments. Polyamide films formed in the presence of zeolite nanoparticles were less cross-linked than similarly cast pure polyamide films. At the very low nanoparticle loadings evaluated, differences between pure polyamide and zeolite-polyamide membrane water and salt permeability correlated weakly with extent of cross-linking of the polyamide film, which suggests that defects and molecular-sieving largely govern transport through zeolite-polyamide thin film nanocomposite membranes.

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