Complexation-Induced Phase Separation: Preparation of Metal-Rich Polymeric Membranes
AuthorsVillalobos, Luis Francisco
KAUST DepartmentPhysical Sciences and Engineering (PSE) Division
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AbstractThe majority of state-of-the-art polymeric membranes for industrial or medical applications are fabricated by phase inversion. Complexation induced phase separation (CIPS)—a surprising variation of this well-known process—allows direct fabrication of hybrid membranes in existing facilities. In the CIPS process, a first step forms the thin metal-rich selective layer of the membrane, and a succeeding step the porous support. Precipitation of the selective layer takes place in the same solvent used to dissolve the polymer and is induced by a small concentration of metal ions. These ions form metal-coordination-based crosslinks leading to the formation of a solid skin floating on top of the liquid polymer film. A subsequent precipitation in a nonsolvent bath leads to the formation of the porous support structure. Forming the dense layer and porous support by different mechanisms while maintaining the simplicity of a phase inversion process, results in unprecedented control over the final structure of the membrane. The thickness and morphology of the dense layer as well as the porosity of the support can be controlled over a wide range by manipulating simple process parameters. CIPS facilitates control over (i) the thickness of the dense layer throughout several orders of magnitude—from less than 15 nm to more than 6 μm, (ii) the type and amount of metal ions loaded in the dense layer, (iii) the morphology of the membrane surface, and (iv) the porosity and structure of the support. The nature of the CIPS process facilitates a precise loading of a high concentration of metal ions that are located in only the top layer of the membrane. Moreover, these metal ions can be converted—during the membrane fabrication process—to nanoparticles or crystals. This simple method opens up fascinating possibilities for the fabrication of metal-rich polymeric membranes with a new set of properties. This dissertation describes the process in depth and explores promising applications: (i) catalytic membranes containing palladium nanoparticles (PdNPs), (ii) antibiofouling tight-UF membranes containing silver chloride (AgCl) crystals, and (iii) palladiumrich PBI hollow fibers for H2 recovery.