Do Membranes Dream of Electric Tubes? Advanced Membranes Using Carbon Nanotube - Polymer Nanocomposites

TitleDo Membranes Dream of Electric Tubes? Advanced Membranes Using Carbon Nanotube - Polymer Nanocomposites
Publication TypeC. Thesis
Year of Publication2014
Authorsde Lannoy, C-F
AdvisorWiesner, MR
Academic DepartmentCivil and Environmental Engineering
Number of Pages296
UniversityDuke University
CityAnn Arbor
Thesis Type3614125
ISBN Number9781303789830

Membrane technologies represent an energy efficient, effective solution for treating municipal and commercial waters/wastewaters. Membranes are predominantly polymer-based and despite steady advances in polymeric materials, they continue to suffer from operational problems including biofouling and breakages. This work addresses these two disparate problems by developing novel CNT-polymer nanocomposite materials that contain variously functionalized carbon nanotubes (fCNTs) in low quantities (<0.5 wt% ). Several strategies have been employed to achieve highly functional CNT-polymer nanocomposite membranes including blend mixing, ionic charge association, and covalent cross-linking with monomer and oligomer constituents. These CNT-polymer nanocomposite membranes were compared to traditional polymer membranes across various properties including increased Young's Modulus, changes in surface hydrophilicity, fine control over molecular weight cut-off and flux, and surface electrical conductivity. Membranes with high surface electrical conductivity were further tested for their anti-biofouling properties. Finally, CNT stability and polymer compatibility were evaluated throughout membrane manufacture, use, and cleaning. The incorporation of CNTs mixed in bulk phase and linked through ionic associations in polymer matrices showed significant (50%) increases in Young's modulus for certain CNT functionalizations and derivatization percent. Membranes formed with high surface electrical conductivity demonstrated almost complete resistance to biofouling (> 95%) in long-term bacterially challenged experiments. CNTs and polymer mixtures that lacked covalent or ionic bonds were susceptible to significant (up to 10%) loss of CNTs during membrane non-solvent gelation and aggressive chemical cleaning treatment. Functionalized carbon nanotubes endow polymer membranes with their unique strength and electrically conductive properties. These added properties were demonstrated to greatly improve membrane operational efficiency and membrane longevity. CNT-polymer nanocomposite membranes offer low-energy, high-efficiency, and long-lifetime alternatives to traditional polymer membranes. With further advances in polymeric nanomaterials, membrane technology has the potential for wide applicability across many fields outside of water filtration and desalination.

Full Text