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Title: Characterisation of organic solvent nanofiltration membranes
Author: Stawikowska, Joanna
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2013
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Interests in application of organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN) technology based on synthetic membranes to molecular separation processes have been growing rapidly in recent years. The main classes of OSN flat sheet polymeric membranes are integrally skinned asymmetric (ISA) and thin film composite (TFC) membranes. A general goal of OSN membrane research is to improve membrane performance for specific non-aqueous applications, or to develop new separation processes. Most of the time the research is performed via trial–and–error methods, leading to extension of development time and increase of costs. This is partially because the structure of OSN membranes, particularly the size of their permeation pathway is largely unknown. The filtration characteristics are mainly determined by the membrane structure, which is dependent on various fabrication methods as well as polymer chemistry. However, a direct correlation between these factors has not been understood in detail, because the current characterisation techniques have limitations in studying polymer structures with dimensions at the macromolecular level. The pore size in nanofiltration (NF) membranes is believed to be less than 2 nm, which is a lengthscale at the edge of most available material characterisation techniques. For this reason, advanced methods to study the membrane morphology need to be explored or developed with the aim of elucidating the NF membrane structure, transport mechanisms, and to understand the relationship between the membrane structure and the separation characteristics. These objectives guided the work to development of a nanoscale characterisation method based on imaging the porous regions via probing the NF pores with nanoparticles (NP). Given that the probes provide high electron contrast, it is possible to map the pores formed between the polymer entanglements in the transmission electron microscope (TEM). This technique measures the pore size in situ, thus, a membrane is characterised during its operational state. The pore size was found to correlate well with the solute rejection and flux measured for a range of ISA and TFC membranes. The pore size distributions were then used together with a pore–flow model to simulate rejection curves. A further insight into the membrane structure, particularly the surface structure, was provided by atomic force microscopy (AFM), particularly phase imaging. This method was applied to characterisation of polymer packing at the membrane surface, leading to analysis of the correlations between the phase shift, filtration parameters and membrane preparation methods.
Supervisor: Livingston, Andrew Sponsor: European Commission
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available