Bridging the interfacial gap in mixed-matrix membranes by nature-inspired design: Precise molecular sieving with polymer-grafted metal–organic frameworks

Levente Cseri, Rifan Hardian, Shizuka Anan, Hakkim Vovusha, Udo Schwingenschlögl, Peter Martin Budd, Kazuki Sada, Kenta Kokado, Gyorgy Szekely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Membrane technology is a dynamically developing field of separation science that is poised to result in new and efficient processes, energy and cost savings, and sustainability benefits. A key challenge in this field is the development of highly selective membranes, which can be addressed by the development of mixed-matrix membranes (MMMs) containing fillers such as metal–organic frameworks (MOFs). However, the lack of interfacial adhesion causes nanosized gaps between the filler and the polymer matrix. In this study, we aim to elucidate the intrinsic properties of MMMs and bridge the gap between their material constituents. A series of novel membranes comprising MOF nanoparticles with similar chemical and morphological properties but increasing pore size (UiO-66–68-NH2) were prepared. The nanoparticles’ surface was covalently grafted with poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) chains, which could then become entangled with the membranes’ polymer matrix. Morphological characterization and organic solvent nanofiltration tests revealed that membranes with PNIPAM-grafted fillers do not suffer from the formation of pinholes at the filler–matrix interface that are detrimental to the filtration performance. For the first time, the experimental results showed an excellent match with a predictive model of nanofiltration built around the premise of liquid transport through the highly ordered pores of the MOF filler.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry A
StatePublished - Sep 2 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-09-06
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this publication was supported by funding from The Royal Society (IES\R3\170080) and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Fig. 1 and ToC graphic were created by Xavier Pita,scientific illustrator at KAUST. LC is grateful to the Faculty of Science and Engineering for his PhD scholarship at the University of Manchester. The authors are thankful to Dr. Hai Anh Le Phuong and Dr. Kamilla Németh for the fruitful discussion.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Materials Science
  • General Chemistry


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