Ultrahigh-flux and fouling-resistant membranes based on layered silver/MXene (Ti3C2Tx) nanosheets†
Low flux and fouling are critical issues in membrane based separation processes. Here we report a two-dimensional (2D) MXene (Ti3C2Tx) modified with Ag nanoparticles (Ag@MXene) as a promising alternative for ultrafast water purification membrane applications. The novel Ag@MXene composite membrane with variable AgNP loadings (between 0–35%) was produced by self-reduction of silver nitrate on the surface of MXene sheets in solution, where the MXene acted simultaneously as a membrane forming material and a reducing agent. The most suitable membrane, 21% Ag@MXene with 470 nm thickness and 2.1 nm average pore size, exhibited an outstanding water flux (∼420 L m−2 h−1 bar−1) compared to the pristine MXene membrane (∼118 L m−2 h−1 bar−1) under the same experimental conditions. The 21% Ag@MXene membrane demonstrated high rejection efficiency for organic molecules with excellent flux recovery. Moreover, the 21% Ag@MXene composite membrane demonstrated more than 99% E. coli growth inhibition, while the MXene membrane exhibited only ∼60% bacteria growth inhibition compared to the control hydrophilic polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) based membrane. Furthermore, the 21% Ag@MXene membrane achieved favorable rejection to organic foulants like bovine serum albumin (BSA) and methyl green (MG) in comparison to other reported membranes. This combination of controlled permeability and bactericidal properties makes Ag@MXene layered nanosheets attractive candidates towards the development of nanofiltration membranes for water purification and biomedical applications.