Mixed Mosaic Membranes Prepared by Layer-by-Layer Assembly for Ionic Separations

Charge mosaic membranes, which possess distinct cationic and anionic domains that traverse the membrane thickness, are capable of selectively separating dissolved salts from similarly sized neutral solutes. Here, the generation of charge mosaic membranes using facile layer-by-layer assembly methodologies is reported. Polymeric nanotubes with pore walls lined by positively charged polyethylenimine moieties or negatively charged poly(styrenesulfonate) moieties were prepared via layer-by-layer assembly using track-etched membranes as sacrificial templates. Subsequently, both types of nanotubes were deposited on a porous support in order to produce mixed mosaic membranes. Scanning electron microscopy demonstrates that the facile deposition techniques implemented result in nanotubes that are vertically aligned without overlap between adjacent elements. Furthermore, the nanotubes span the thickness of the mixed mosaic membranes. The effects of this unique nanostructure are reflected in the transport characteristics of the mixed mosaic membranes. The hydraulic permeability of the mixed mosaic membranes in piezodialysis operations was 8 L m–2 h–1 bar–1. Importantly, solute rejection experiments demonstrate that the mixed mosaic membranes are more permeable to ionic solutes than similarly sized neutral molecules. In particular, negative rejection of sodium chloride is observed (i.e., the concentration of NaCl in the solution that permeates through a mixed mosaic membrane is higher than in the initial feed solution). These properties illustrate the ability of mixed mosaic membranes to permeate dissolved ions selectively without violating electroneutrality and suggest their utility in ionic separations.