Hybrid ceramic nanofiltration membranes prepared by impregnation and solid-state grafting of organo-phosphonic acids

Nikos Kyriakou, Elmar Boorsma, Gert Jan Aardema, Guido Ritsema van Eck, Martin Drobek, Sissi de Beer, Arian Nijmeijer, Louis Winnubst, Marie Alix Pizzoccaro-Zilamy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Grafting of oligomers into the mesopores of ceramic membranes (e.g. γ-alumina) represents an attractive strategy for deploying durable, resistant, and efficient hybrid membranes for the industrial treatment of wastewater containing organic solvents and divers solutes. In general, to control the membrane/solute/solvent interactions, homogeneous surface modification and high grafting yields are required. However, reaching this goal is rather challenging with the current grafting approaches where the active diffusion of the oligomers to the membrane pore surface may be hampered. To mitigate such diffusion limitation, we present here a novel synthesis method consisting of an infiltration of concentrated PEG organophosphonic acid oligomer solution in ceramic ultrafiltration membranes before initiating the solid-state grafting reaction to form a PEG-brush-grafted nanofiltration ceramic membrane. The infiltration step was found to be decisive for the formation of weak bonds between the oligomer linking functions and the ceramic membrane ensuring the final synthesis of robust PEG-based membranes by a grafting reaction. The influence of the solvent polarity (water vs. cyclohexane) on the conformation of the grafted PEG brush inside the γ-alumina mesopores was observed as a key parameter in the analysis of the pore size and permeability results. In addition to this, it was studied here for the first time by molecular dynamic simulations. The as-prepared PEG-brush/ceramic membranes were found very efficient in the separation of small organic dyes such as Rhodamine B (479 g mol−1) up to 85%. As a result, the present synthesis method represents a sustainable and simple alternative way for the preparation of hybrid nanofiltration membranes with controlled surface properties and attractive separation performance. Moreover, the vacuum impregnation and solid-state grafting approach requires a minimal amount of functional oligomers and solvent (0.5 mmol for 2–3 mL of solvent) and can be applied to other porous materials used in separation technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122041
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of membrane science
Early online date2 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2023


  • Gamma alumina
  • Grafting
  • Hybrid ceramic membranes
  • Nanofiltration
  • PEG oligomers
  • Phosphonic acid
  • Polymer brush
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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