In situ polymerized superhydrophobic and superoleophilic nanofibrous membranes for gravity driven oil–water separation†
Creating an efficient, cost-effective method that can provide simple, practical and high-throughput separation of oil–water mixtures has proved extremely challenging. This work responds to these challenges by designing, fabricating and evaluating a novel fluorinated polybenzoxazine (F-PBZ) modified nanofibrous membrane optimized to achieve gravity driven oil–water separation. The membrane design is then realized by a facile combination of electrospun poly(m-phenylene isophthalamide) (PMIA) nanofibers and an in situ polymerized F-PBZ functional layer incorporating SiO2 nanoparticles (SiO2 NPs). By employing the F-PBZ/SiO2 NP modification, the pristine hydrophilic PMIA nanofibrous membranes are endowed with promising superhydrophobicity with a water contact angle of 161° and superoleophilicity with an oil contact angle of 0°. This new membrane shows high thermal stability (350 °C) and good repellency to hot water (80 °C), and achieves an excellent mechanical strength of 40.8 MPa. Furthermore, the as-prepared membranes exhibited fast and efficient separation of oil–water mixtures by a solely gravity driven process, which makes them good candidates for industrial oil-polluted water treatments and oil spill cleanup, and also provided new insights into the design and development of functional nanofibrous membranes through F-PBZ modification.