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Stable Superhydrophobic Ceramic-Based Carbon Nanotube Composite Desalination Membranes

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journal contribution
posted on 07.08.2018, 00:00 by Yingchao Dong, Lining Ma, Chuyang Y. Tang, Fenglin Yang, Xie Quan, David Jassby, Michael J. Zaworotko, Michael D. Guiver
Membrane distillation (MD) is a promising process for the treatment of highly saline wastewaters. The central component of MD is a stable porous hydrophobic membrane with a large liquid–vapor interface for efficient water vapor transport. A key challenge for current polymeric or hydrophobically modified inorganic membranes is insufficient operating stability, resulting in some issues such as wetting, fouling, flux, and rejection decline. This study presents an overall conceptual design and application strategy for a superhydrophobic ceramic–based carbon nanotube (CNT) desalination membrane having specially designed membrane structures with unprecedented operating stability and MD performance. Superporous and superhydrophobic surface structures with CNT networks are created after quantitative regulation of in situ grown CNT. The fully covered CNT layers (FC–CNT) exhibit significantly improved thermally and superhydrophobically stable properties under an accelerated stability test. Due to the distinctive structure of the superporous surface network, providing a large liquid–vapor superhydrophobic interface and interior finger-like macrovoids, the FC–CNT membrane exhibits a stable high flux with a 99.9% rejection of Na+, outperforming existing inorganic membranes. Under simple and nondestructive electrochemically assisted direct contact MD (e-DCMD), enhanced antifouling performance is observed. The design strategy is broadly applicable to be extended toward fabrication of high performance membranes derived from other ceramic or inorganic substrates and additional applications in wastewater and gas treatment.