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Frontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering >> 2022, Volume 16, Issue 5 doi: 10.1007/s11705-021-2038-x

Preparation of polysulfone-based block copolymer ultrafiltration membranes by selective swelling and sacrificing nanofillers

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Selective swelling of block copolymers of polysulfone-b-poly(ethylene glycol) is an emerging strategy to prepare new types of polysulfone ultrafiltration membranes. Herein, we prepared nanoporous polysulfone-b-poly(ethylene glycol) ultrafiltration membranes by selective swelling and further promoted their porosity and ultrafiltration performances by using CaCO3 nanoparticles as the sacrificial nanofillers. Different contents of CaCO3 nanoparticles were doped into the solution of polysulfone-b-poly(ethylene glycol), and thus obtained suspensions were used to prepare both self-supported and bi-layered composite structures. Selective swelling was performed on the obtained block copolymer structures in the solvent pair of ethanol/acetone, producing nanoporous membranes with poly(ethylene glycol) lined along pore walls. The CaCO3 nanoparticles dispersed in polysulfone-b-poly(ethylene glycol) were subsequently etched away by hydrochloric acid and the spaces initially occupied by CaCO3 provided extra pores to the block copolymer layers. The porosity of the membranes was increased with increasing CaCO3 content up to 41%, but further increase in the CaCO3 content led to partial collapse of the membrane. The sacrificial CaCO3 particles provided extra pores and enhanced the connectivity between adjacent pores. Consequently, the membranes prepared under optimized conditions exhibited up to 80% increase in water permeance with slight decrease in rejection compared to neat membranes without the use of sacrificial CaCO3 particles.

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