Two-dimensional model of ion transport in composite membranes active layers with TEM-scanned morphology

Fernan David Martinez-Jimenez*, Valentina Elena Musteata, Santiago Cespedes-Zuluaga, Bastiaan Blankert, Cristian Picioreanu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ion rejection by composite membranes for RO/NF is performed by an ultrathin polyamide active layer (AL) with non-uniform thickness. Current models explain the solute and water fluxes by concentration and potential in AL of uniform properties, there are studies showing the effects of its topology on permeability. We developed a two-dimensional extension of the solution-friction model, coupling ion and water transport in irregularly-shaped charged AL, with geometry extracted from TEM images. Simulations indicated that AL with pronounced roughness lead to highly non-uniform distribution of ionic fluxes and lead to NaCl permeability greater than obtained by uniform layers. The transmembrane pressure and membrane charge can shift the relative dominance of ion transport mechanisms. In weakly charged membranes diffusion dominates, even at high water fluxes. Electromigration can counteract the convective flux in highly charged membranes. The model revealed the possibility of circular ionic currents within/around the AL. The response of the 2D model to variations in flux and salinity can be identical to the response of a 1D model, providing that the 1D model uses an appropriate equivalent membrane thickness. We provided a method to convert the detailed 2D geometry into a single number that can be computed from images' active layers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116876
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by the Greener Desalination grant within Center Competitive Funding Program from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) under Award No. ORA-CCF-WDRC-1971 . We thank KAUST Core Labs for using the microscopy facilities.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


  • Donnan partition
  • Membrane charge
  • Nernst-Planck
  • Salt permeability
  • Solution-friction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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