Porous block copolymer separation membranes for 21st century sanitation and hygiene
Removing hazardous particulate and macromolecular contaminants as well as viruses with sizes from a few nm up to the 100 nm-range from water and air is crucial for ensuring sufficient sanitation and hygiene for a growing world population. To this end, high-performance separation membranes are needed that combine high permeance, high selectivity and sufficient mechanical stability under operating conditions. However, design features of separation membranes enhancing permeance reduce selectivity and vice versa. Membrane configurations combining high permeance and high selectivity suffer in turn from a lack of mechanical robustness. These problems may be tackled by using block copolymers (BCPs) as a material platform for the design of separation membranes. BCPs are macromolecules that consist of two or more chemically distinct block segments, which undergo microphase separation yielding a wealth of ordered nanoscopic domain structures. Various methods allow the transformation of these nanoscopic domain structures into customized nanopore systems with pore sizes in the sub-100 nm range and with narrow pore size distributions. This tutorial review summarizes design strategies for nanoporous state-of-the-art BCP separation membranes, their preparation, their device integration and their use for water purification.