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Sci Rep. 2015 Dec 2;5:17353. doi: 10.1038/srep17353.

Tunable-Porosity Membranes From Discrete Nanoparticles.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London South Kensington Campus, SW7 2AZ, London UK.
Lanxess Deutschland GmbH Chemiepark Krefeld-Uerdingen, 47829 Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany.


Thin film composite membranes were prepared through a facile single-step wire-wound rod coating procedure in which internally crosslinked poly(styrene-co-butadiene) polymer nanoparticles self-assembled to form a thin film on a hydrophilic ultrafiltration support. This nanoparticle film provided a defect-free separation layer 130-150 nm thick, which was highly permeable and able to withstand aggressive pH conditions beyond the range of available commercial membranes. The nanoparticles were found to coalesce to form a rubbery film when heated above their glass transition temperature (Tg). The retention properties of the novel membrane were strongly affected by charge repulsion, due to the negative charge of the hydroxyl functionalized nanoparticles. Porosity was tuned by annealing the membranes at different temperatures, below and above the nanoparticle Tg. This enabled fabrication of membranes with varying performance. Nanofiltration properties were achieved with a molecular weight cut-off below 500 g mol(-1) and a low fouling tendency. Interestingly, after annealing above Tg, memory of the interstitial spaces between the nanoparticles persisted. This memory led to significant water permeance, in marked contrast to the almost impermeable films cast from a solution of the same polymer.

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