Graphene oxide mixed matrix membranes for improved desalination performance

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Reverse osmosis (RO) membranes are considered the most effective treatment to remove salt from water. Specifically, thin film composite (TFC) membranes are considered the gold standard for RO. Despite TFC

Reverse osmosis (RO) membranes are considered the most effective treatment to remove salt from water. Specifically, thin film composite (TFC) membranes are considered the gold standard for RO. Despite TFC membranes good performance, there are drawbacks to consider including: permeability-selectivity tradeoff, chlorine damage, and biofouling potential. In order to counter these drawbacks, polyamide matrixes were embedded with various nanomaterials called mixed matrix membranes (MMMs) or thin film nanocomposites (TFNs). This research investigates the use of graphene oxide (GO) and reduced graphene oxide (RGO) into the polyamide matrix of a TFC membrane. GO and RGO have the potential to alter the permeability-selectivity trade off by offering nanochannels for water molecules to sieve through, protect polyamide from trace amounts of chlorine, as well as increase the hydrophilicity of the membrane thereby reducing biofouling potential. This project focuses on the impacts of GO on the permeability selectivity tradeoff. The hypothesis of this work is that the permeability and selectivity of GO can be tuned by controlling the oxidation level of the material. To test this hypothesis, a range of GO materials were produced in the lab using different graphite oxidation methods. The synthesized GOs were characterized by X-ray diffraction and X-ray photoelectron microscopy to show that the spacing is a function of the GO oxygen content. From these materials, two were selected due to their optimal sheet spacing between 3.4 and 7 angstroms and embedded into desalination MMM. This work reveals that the water permeability coefficient of MMM embedded with GO and RGO increased significantly; however, that the salt permeability coefficient of the membrane also increased. Future research directions are proposed to overcome this limitation.