Stimuli Responsive Switchable Membranes for Oil-Water Separation

Sinoj Abraham1,2, Guibin Ma1,2, Jeffery Germain1,2, Carlo Montemagno1,2
1Ingenuity Lab, 11421 Saskatchewan Drive, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2M9, Canada
2Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton T6G 2V4, Canada

Membrane technology is the most viable means for water separation and purification. This technology advanced rapidly by the discovery of new materials and various configurations and functionality. Increase in complexity and demand for separation processes and specialized requirements for membrane, we are developing a wide variety of membrane filtration technologies in order to meet the present day water treatment challenges, by designing membranes of choice for industries for reusing their wastewater. Considering new and difficult separation problems and many state-of-the-art membranes face limitations, especially, with chemical inertness, thermal and mechanical stability, reusability etc. developing a new class of materials for novel performances is a required. This research focus on designing membranes using new functional building blocks including metal nanowires, stimuli responsive metal oxides and polymers etc. Reversible switchable physicochemical properties are incorporated in to these membranes in order to develop stimuli-responsive nature, so that mass transfer and interfacial properties can be adjusted using external stimuli: temperature, light and gas. Utilizing metal oxide nanowires with novel cross linking ability enabled us to fabricate large membrane mats with stimuli responsive surface properties. These membranes render the molecular structure sensitivity to the external stimuli and can tailor to exhibit either single or combination of the properties like super-amphiphobic, super-hydrophilic, underwater-oleophobic, zwitterionic, self-cleaning, antibacterial, antifouling etc. using our own engineered building blocks. These membranes can be utilized for a large number of existing applications in separation fields and can be essential building for fabricating systems for sensors, separation processes and delivery systems.