The formation of nodular structures in the top layer of ultrafiltration membranes

I.M. Wienk, Th. van den Boomgaard, C.A. Smolders

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Abstract

The formation of nodular structures in the top layer of ultrafiltration membranes is considered. A critical review of mechanisms described in the literature is given. Flat-sheet poly(ether sulfone) membranes and hollow-fiber poly(ether sulfone)/polyvinylpyrrolidone membranes were made by coagulation of a polymer solution in a nonsolvent medium under different circumstances. From these experiments, a number of empirical rules are found to describe the resulting morphology of the top layer. A new mechanism for the formation of a nodular structure is proposed. It is based on the small diffusion coefficient of the polymer molecules compared to the diffusion coefficient of solvent and nonsolvent combined with a high degree of entanglement of the polymer network. For unstable compositions, phase separation will proceed by growth in amplitude of concentration fluctuations. The rapid diffusional exchange of solvent for nonsolvent in the top layer leads to vitrification of the maxima of the concentration fluctuations that form the nodules. Complete disentanglement of the polymer chains between the nodules is not reached, which explains the small pores and the low porosity of ultrafiltration membranes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1023
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of applied polymer science
Volume53
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1994

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