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Effect of the manufacturing conditions on the structure and performance of thin-film composite membranes

Authors

  • Rui-Xin Zhang,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, Laboratory for Applied Physical Chemistry and Environmental Technology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, W. de Croylaan 46, Leuven B-3001, Belgium
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  • Johan Vanneste,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, Laboratory for Applied Physical Chemistry and Environmental Technology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, W. de Croylaan 46, Leuven B-3001, Belgium
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  • Lore Poelmans,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, Laboratory for Applied Physical Chemistry and Environmental Technology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, W. de Croylaan 46, Leuven B-3001, Belgium
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  • Arcadio Sotto,

    1. Department of Chemical and Energetic Technology, Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain
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  • Xiao-Lin Wang,

    1. State Key Laboratory of Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
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  • Bart Van der Bruggen

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, Laboratory for Applied Physical Chemistry and Environmental Technology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, W. de Croylaan 46, Leuven B-3001, Belgium
    • Department of Chemical Engineering, Laboratory for Applied Physical Chemistry and Environmental Technology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, W. de Croylaan 46, Leuven B-3001, Belgium
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Abstract

A systematic investigation of the influence of the manufacturing conditions on the structure and performance of thin-film composite (TFC) membranes is presented for polyamide (PA) supported by poly(ether sulfone) (PES). The TFC membranes were composed of an ultrathin PA layer synthesized by interfacial polymerization on top of a porous PES support layer formed by immersion precipitation. For the PES support layer, the role of the wetting pretreatment, initial casting film thickness, and relative air humidity were studied. Assuming a strong correlation between the thermodynamics and the hydrodynamics of the casting process, we derived new insights from scanning electron microscopy images and the experimental data. In view of optimization of the flux through the membranes, a wetting pretreatment should be avoided. Important polymer savings were obtained without a loss of performance through a decrease in the casting thickness in combination with the use of a very smooth support. Last but not least, a high air humidity during casting was found to inhibit the formation of a dense, defect-free skin layer. For the PA layer, the interfacial polymerization method, the drying method, and the curing time were studied. The clamping of the membrane in a frame with one side in contact with the piperazine (PIP) solution and the other side to the air yielded the highest membrane flux and rejection with the lowest use of PIP and trimesoylchloride solution. Because of the absence of a uniform PIP solution layer for some drying methods, nodular PA structures could be observed in the macrovoids of the underlying PES layer because of hexane intrusion; this resulted in a dramatic decrease in the flux. Moreover, the omission of the drying step did not result in a significant loss of performance and enhanced the ease of operation. Finally, a curing time of 8 min was found to be optimal. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2012

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