Highly Hydrophilic Thin-Film Composite Forward Osmosis Membranes Functionalized with Surface-Tailored Nanoparticles

Alberto Tiraferri, Yan Kang, Emmanuel P. Giannelis, Menachem Elimelech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


Thin-film composite polyamide membranes are state-of-the-art materials for membrane-based water purification and desalination processes, which require both high rejection of contaminants and high water permeabilities. However, these membranes are prone to fouling when processing natural waters and wastewaters, because of the inherent surface physicochemical properties of polyamides. The present work demonstrates the fabrication of forward osmosis polyamide membranes with optimized surface properties via facile and scalable functionalization with fine-tuned nanoparticles. Silica nanoparticles are coated with superhydrophilic ligands possessing functional groups that impart stability to the nanoparticles and bind irreversibly to the native carboxyl moieties on the membrane selective layer. The tightly tethered layer of nanoparticles tailors the surface chemistry of the novel composite membrane without altering the morphology or water/solute permeabilities of the membrane selective layer. Surface characterization and interfacial energy analysis confirm that highly hydrophilic and wettable membrane surfaces are successfully attained. Lower intermolecular adhesion forces are measured between the new membrane materials and model organic foulants, indicating the presence of a bound hydration layer at the polyamide membrane surface that creates a barrier for foulant adhesion. © 2012 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5044-5053
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 17 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-C1-018-02
Acknowledgements: This publication is based on work supported by Award No. KUS-C1-018-02, made by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). We also acknowledge the NWRI-AMTA Fellowship for Membrane Technology, awarded to A.T.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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