Functionalization of polybenzimidizole membranes to impart negative charge and hydrophilicity

Richard Hausman, Brett Digman, Isabel C. Escobar*, Maria Coleman, Tai Shung Chung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Polybenzimidizole (PBI) is a promising material for membrane separations due to its high mechanical and thermal stabilities. Two drawbacks that can hinder the use of PBI membranes in water applications are low hydrophilicity and neutral charge at neutral pH values. To investigate methods to increase hydrophilicity and charge, PBI membranes were cast in the form of flat sheets using the phase-inversion technique and were functionalized with groups designed to modify the membrane surface. Specifically, three functional agents (taurine, para-phenylene diamine, and ethylene diamine) were chosen for surface modification based on their potential to impart charges and hydrophilicity on the PBI membrane. The surface of the PBI membrane was activated using 4-(chloromethyl) benzoic acid (CMBA). Characterization of the membrane was done using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy in attenuated reflectance mode (FTIR-ATR), contact angle measurement, ζ potential, and environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM). Modification resulted in increased hydrophilicity and negative surface charge coverage. Pure water permeability was found to decrease by 33% after surface activation and by ∼70% after chemical modification as compared to that of the unmodified PBI membrane. Monovalent salt rejection was investigated using sodium chloride feed at concentrations from 3.4. mM to 100. mM and at pH values of 7 and 10. At both pH values salt rejection decreased exponentially with increasing concentration, and modified membranes provided higher rejections than unmodified membranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-203
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Charge
  • Functionalization
  • Hydrophilicity
  • Membrane separation
  • Polybenzimidizole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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