Stimuli-Responsive Membranes through Sustainable Aqueous Phase Separation

Joshua D. Willott, Wouter M. Nielen, Wiebe M. de Vos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)
104 Downloads (Pure)


Polymeric membranes are used on huge scales for kidney dialysis, wastewater treatment, and drinking water production. However, almost all polymeric membranes are fabricated by a process reliant on the use of unsustainable, expensive, and reprotoxic dipolar aprotic solvents. In this work, we propose an aqueous phase separation approach for preparing porous membrane films. Poly(4-vinylpyridine) (P4VP), a pH-responsive polymer, is first dissolved at low pH where the polymer is charged and subsequently cast as a thin film. Switching to a high pH where the polymer is uncharged and insoluble results in controlled phase separation and solidification of the polymer into porous membrane structures. This approach gives a large degree of control over membrane structure, leading to symmetric porous microfiltration membranes and asymmetric dense nanofiltration membranes. Moreover, the use of a pH-responsive polymer leads directly to a pH-responsive membrane, where the degree of responsive behavior can be tuned by the degree of cross-linking. Such responsive behavior allows effective cleaning of the membrane, without the use of harsh chemicals. This work outlines an approach toward preparing membranes in a more sustainable fashion—an approach that allows control over the membrane structure and one that naturally leads to advanced membranes with responsive properties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-667
JournalACS Applied Polymer Materials
Issue number2
Early online date3 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2020


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • polyelectrolytes
  • membranes
  • stimuli-responsive
  • nanofiltration
  • non-solvent-induced phase separation
  • aqueous phase separation


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