Advanced stimuli-responsive membranes for smart separation
Membranes have been extensively studied and applied in various fields owing to their high energy efficiency and small environmental impact. Further conferring membranes with stimuli responsiveness can allow them to dynamically tune their pore structure and/or surface properties for efficient separation performance. This review summarizes and discusses important developments and achievements in stimuli-responsive membranes. The most commonly utilized stimuli, including light, pH, temperature, ions, and electric and magnetic fields, are discussed in detail. Special attention is given to stimuli-responsive control of membrane pore structure (pore size and porosity/connectivity) and surface properties (wettability, surface topology, and surface charge), from the perspective of determining the appropriate membrane properties and microstructures. This review also focuses on strategies to prepare stimuli-responsive membranes, including blending, casting, polymerization, self-assembly, and electrospinning. Smart applications for separations are also reviewed as well as a discussion of remaining challenges and future prospects in this exciting field. This review offers critical insights for the membrane and broader materials science communities regarding the on-demand and dynamic control of membrane structures and properties. We hope that this review will inspire the design of novel stimuli-responsive membranes to promote sustainable development and make progress toward commercialization.