2015 - Enhancing the Flux of Ultrafiltration Membranes using Nano fibers

Grant Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Schiffman, Jessica D
Research Description: 
Ultrafiltration (UF) membranes are widely considered the “state-of-the-art” material for water treatment and wastewater reuse; they can effectively remove emulsified oils, metal hydroxides, colloids, emulsions, dispersed material, suspended solids, and waterborne pathogens from drinking water. In Massachusetts, UF is used for direct filtration applications and synergistically as a pre-treatment for reverse osmosis systems. This project embarked on a new generation of UF membranes that are surface-functionalized with nanomaterials that do not affect the membrane’s flux. We used surface topography as an environmentally benign approach to change the active layer of the membrane, and potentially, reduce biological fouling. Our specific aims were to systematically electrospin fibers from a robust polymer familiar to water purification membranes, polysulfone. In-house fabricated polysulfone UF membranes enhanced by a thin, porous, and robust layer of fibers were characterized for retention of high flux, molecular weight cut-off (MWCO), and biofouling. Our long term goal is to establish a “greener” antifouling strategy for high flux UF membranes.