Research develops acidity-resistant nanofiltration membrane for wastewater

Jan. 24, 2023
A research group reports that it has developed a nanofiltration membrane with high permeation for H+, high retention for organics, and a resistance to acidity.

A research group has developed a new strategy to create a highly permeable, acid-resistant nanofiltration (NF) membrane for acidic wastewater treatment.

The membrane shows high permeation for hydron (H+) while maintaining high retention for organics, which could help wastewater treatment plants reduce discharge in strongly acidic organic wastewater reclamation.

The study was published in the AIChE Journal on Jan. 14, with a group led by Prof. Wan Yinhua from the Institute of Process Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Commercially available NF membranes are commonly acid sensitive, showing poor performance and stability in acidic wastewater treatment. Due to the low reactivity of acid-stable monomers, current acid-resistant NF membranes can also have low permeability and low separation selectivity for H+/organics.

The approach

The researchers attempted to boost membrane permeability and improve separation layer homogeneity through a strategy to increase separation selectivity for H+/organics.

"Combining a conventional acylation catalyst with a novel nanoparticle carrier, we developed a new scalable strategy for synthesis of special separation membranes," said Luo Jianquan, corresponding author of the study. "Our work also offers a new horizon for utilizing more monomers with special structure for synthesis of functional polymers via interfacial polymerization method."

The team synthesized aminopyridine-doped graphene quantum dot acylation catalysts, which co-loaded with ZIF-8 nanoparticles by in-situ growth as a sacrificial template on a porous substrate. Then the 3-aminobenzenesulfonamide with strong conjugation effect was selected as the aqueous monomer to react with trimesoyl chloride to fabricate the acid-resistant poly(amide-sulfonamide) network.

Benefiting from increased monomer reactivity and optimized phase integrity, the resulting ultra-thin membrane showed excellent water permeance (20.4 Lm-2h-1bar-1) with Na2SO4 rejection of 90.5 percent.

Due to its acid stable polysulfonamide backbone, low layer thickness and narrow pore size distribution, the membrane exhibited pigment/H+ selectivity superior to the commercial GE Duracid membrane at 8 wt percent H2SO4 condition, even for real cane molasses acidic wastewater.

Image courtesy Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ).
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