Polyamide (PA) based thin-film composite (TFC) membranes experience a high degree of organic fouling due to their hydrophobic and rough membrane surfaces during forward osmosis (FO) process. In this study, an ultrathin silica layer was grown in situ on the PA surface to enhance the antifouling property of TFC membrane by silicification process. Surface characterization confirmed the development of a silica layer on the PA surface. The superhydrophilic surface of silica-deposited TFC membrane (contact angle of 20°) with 3 h silicification time (STFC-3h) displayed a 53% higher water flux than the pristine TFC membrane without significantly affecting the membrane selectivity. The silica-modified TFC FO membranes also exhibited excellent stability when subjected to long-term cross-flow shear stress rinsing using deionized (DI) water, including exposure to salty, acidic and basic solutions. Moreover, the fouling tests showed that STFC-3h membrane lost only 4.2%, 9.1% and 12.1% of its initial flux with bovine serum albumin (BSA), humic acid (HA) and sodium alginate (SA), respectively, which are considerably lower compared to the pristine TFC FO membrane where flux losses were 18.7%, 23.2% and 37.2%, respectively. The STFC-3h membrane also revealed higher flux recovery ratio (FRR) of 99.6%, 96.9% and 94.4% with BSA, HA and SA, respectively, after physical cleaning than the pristine membrane (91.4%, 88.7%, and 81.2%, respectively). Overall, the in situ formation of an ultrathin hydrophilic silica layer on the PA surface reported in this work shows that the TFC membrane's water flux and antifouling property could be improved without diminishing the membrane selectivity.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-11-11
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): CRG2017, URF/1/3404-01
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this paper was supported by the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub (IH170100009) and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia through the Competitive Research Grant Program – CRG2017 (CRG6), Grant # URF/1/3404-01.