Fabrication of antifouling polymer–inorganic hybrid membranes through the synergy of biomimetic mineralization and nonsolvent induced phase separation†
Membrane-based technology is regarded as the most promising approach for oil/water separation, but suffers from severe membrane fouling. Hybrid membranes may have great opportunities in dealing with fouling problems due to their hierarchical structures and multiple functionalities. In this study, novel kinds of hybrid membranes with both inorganic hydrophilic microdomains and organic low surface free energy (LSFE) microdomains are fabricated through the synergy of in situ biomimetic mineralization and nonsolvent induced phase separation. The as-prepared hybrid membrane exhibits a homogeneous dispersion of nanoparticles, higher mechanical strength, underwater superoleophobicity and surface heterogeneity. Owing to its concomitant collaborative fouling-resistant mechanism and fouling-release mechanism, it is difficult for oil foulants to approach or attach to the membrane surface, and consequently the membranes display significantly enhanced antifouling properties and separation performance. Particularly, the permeation flux decline approaches zero during oil-in-water emulsion filtration. This study may endeavor to provide a facile and generic strategy to manipulate the structure–property relationship of membranes for efficient water treatment processes.