Molecular design of the cellulose ester-based forward osmosis membranes for desalination

Sui Zhang, Kai Yu Wang, Tai Shung Chung*, Y. C. Jean, Hongmin Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


This work has investigated the fundamental science of phase inversion and formation mechanism of cellulose ester membranes at the interface between polymer and casting substrate. It also explores the desired membrane preparation conditions for forward osmosis (FO) applications. With the aid of positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS), the similarity in physicochemical properties between the polymer and the substrate was found to play a significant role in determining the porosity of the bottom interfacial layer. The structure of the dense interfacial layer was also strongly dependent on membrane thickness and solvent composition. Experimental results surprisingly reveal that the original pore size of the as-cast membrane plays a critical role determining the final performance of the subsequent annealed membrane independently of annealing temperature and time. In addition, since a threshold pore size exists during annealing above which pores become difficult to downsize, we have found that a thin dense selective layer integrated in an asymmetric membrane may not always be the best option for FO. A balanced membrane structure consisting of a thin porous support and a thin dense selective layer has been developed for FO, which shows a low internal concentration polarization (ICP) and a relatively high water flux when seawater was employed as the feed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2008-2018
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cellulose ester
  • Desalination
  • Forward osmosis
  • Membranes
  • Morphology
  • Separations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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