Multifunctional polyelectrolyte multilayers as nanofiltration membranes and as sacrificial layers for easy membrane cleaning

Shazia Ilyas, Joris de Grooth, Dorothea C. Nijmeijer, Wiebe Matthijs de Vos

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This manuscript investigates the modification of an ultra-filtration (UF) membrane support with polyelectrolyte multilayers (PEMs) consisting of the weak polyelectrolytes poly(allyl amine) hydrochloride (PAH) and poly(acrylic acid) (PAA). These prepared polyelectrolyte multilayer membranes have a dual function: They act as nanofiltration (NF) membranes and as sacrificial layers to allow easy cleaning of the membranes. In order to optimize the conditions for PEM coating and removal, adsorption and desorption of these layers on a model surface (silica) was first studied via optical reflectometry. Subsequently, a charged UF membrane support was coated with a PEM and after each deposited layer, a clear increase in membrane resistance against pure water permeation and a switch of the zeta potential were observed. Moreover these polyelectrolyte multilayer membranes, exhibited rejection of solutes in a range typical for NF membranes. Monovalent ions (NaCl) were hardly rejected (<24%), while rejections of >60% were observed for a neutral organic molecule sulfamethoxazole (SMX) and for the divalent ion SO32−. The rejection mechanism of these membranes seems to be dominated by size-exclusion. To investigate the role of these PEMs as sacrificial layers for the cleaning of fouled membranes, the prepared polyelectrolyte multilayers were fouled with silica nano particles. Subsequent removal of the coating using a rinse and a low pressure backwash with pH 3, 3 M NaNO3 allowed for a drop in membrane resistance from 1.7 ⋅ 1014 m−1 (fouled membrane) to 9.9 ⋅ 1012 m−1 (clean membrane), which is nearly equal to that of the pristine membrane (9.7 ⋅ 1012 m−1). Recoating of the support membrane with the same PEMs resulted in a resistance equal to the resistance of the original polyelectrolyte multilayer membrane. Interestingly, less layers were needed to obtain complete foulant removal from the membrane surface, than was the case for the model surface. The possibility for backwashing allows for an even more successful use of the sacrificial layer approach in membrane technology than on model surfaces. Moreover, these PEMs can be used to provide a dual function, as NF membranes and as a Sacrificial coating to allow easy membrane cleaning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-393
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of colloid and interface science
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2015


  • IR-94701
  • METIS-309957


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