Nanocomposite Membrane via Magnetite Nanoparticle Assembly

  • Yihui Xie

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Membrane technology is one of the most promising technologies for addressing the global water crisis as well as in many other applications. One of the drawbacks of current ultra- and nanofiltration membranes is the relatively broad pore size distribution. Block copolymer membranes with ultrahigh permeability and very regular pore sizes have been recently demonstrated with pores being formed by the supramolecular assembly of core/shell micelles. Our study aimed at developing an innovative and economically efficient alternative method to fabricate isoporous membrane by self-assembly of magnetic nanoparticle with a polystyrene shell, mimicking the behavior of block copolymer micelle. Fe3O4 nanoparticles of ~13 nm diameter were prepared by co-precipitation as cores. The initiator for ATRP was covalently bonded onto the surface of magnetic nanoparticles with two strategies. Then the surface initiated ATRP of styrene was carried out to functionalize nanoparticles with polystyrene through a “grafting from” method. Finally, the nanocomposite membrane was cast from 50 wt % Fe3O4@PS brush polymer solution in DMF via non solvent phase inversion. Microscopies reveal an asymmetric membrane with a dense thin layer on top of a porous sponge-like layer. This novel class of asymmetric membrane, based on the pure assembly of functionalized nanoparticles was prepared for the first time. The nanoparticles are well distributed however with no preferential order yet in the as-cast film.I would like to thank my committee chair and advisor, Prof. Suzana Nunes, and other committee members, Prof. Klaus-Viktor Peinemann and Prof. Gary Amy, for their guidance and support throughout the course of this research. My appreciation also goes to my colleagues in our group for useful discussions and suggestions. I also want to extend my gratitude to the staff from the KAUST Core Lab for Advanced Nanofabrication, Imaging and Characterization, especially Dr. Ali Reza Behzad, Dr. Rachid Sougrat, and Dr. Long Chen, for their assistance for various microscopy measurements. Finally, my heartfelt gratitude is extended to my parents and all my friends. I cannot finish this thesis without their encouragement and support.
Date of AwardJul 2012
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorSuzana Nunes (Supervisor)


  • Isoporous membrane
  • nanocomposite
  • Functionalized nanoparticles
  • Self-assembly

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