A practical approach to synthesize polyamide thin film nanocomposite (TFN) membranes with improved separation properties for water/wastewater treatment†
Thin film nanocomposite (TFN) membranes containing 0.05 or 0.10 w/v% surface-functionalized titanate nanotubes (TNTs) in a polyamide selective layer were synthesized via interfacial polymerization of piperazine (PIP) and trimesoyl chloride (TMC) monomers. Nanomaterials were dispersed into the monomer solution using two different approaches. In the first one, the functionalized TNTs were dispersed into the amine aqueous solution, while in the second approach the same nanomaterials were dispersed in TMC organic solution. The TFN membranes were characterized and compared with a control thin film composite (TFC) membrane to investigate the effect of nanofiller loadings and the fabrication approach on membrane properties. Results showed that introducing nanofillers into the organic phase was more effective to synthesize a TFN membrane of greater separation performance as the use of a rubber roller to remove aqueous solution from the substrate surface could cause the loss of a significant amount of nanofillers, which further affected the polyamide layer integrity. It was also found that the incorporation of a high nanofiller loading tended to interfere with interfacial polymerization and weaken the bonds between monomer blocks, resulting in poor polyamide–nanotube integrity. Compared to the TFC membrane, the TFN membrane made of 2% PIP and 0.15% TMC with 0.5% nanofiller incorporation could achieve greater water flux (7.5 vs. 5.4 L m−2 h−1 bar−1) and Na2SO4 rejection (96.4% vs. 86%) while exhibiting higher resistance against fouling by protein and dye.