Antifouling Bilayer Graphene Slit Membrane for Desalination of Nanoplastic-Infested Seawater: A Molecular Dynamics Simulation Study

W Toh and EYM Ang and TY Ng and RM Lin and ZS Liu, ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES (2022).

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.2c12638

It has been shown that the nanoplastic particles present in graphene membranes have a high tendency to cause fouling in them due to the high affinity between graphene and nanoplastic molecules. This poses a significant challenge for the use of graphene membranes for desalination. In this paper, we introduce a double-layer graphene slit membrane as a viable solution to significantly reduce fouling caused by the presence of nanoplastic particles in graphene membranes. The molecular dynamics (MD) simulations performed in this work show that when fouling occurs in a single-layer membrane, the presence of nanoplastics reduces the average permeability by close to 40%, from 1877 LMBH to 1148 LMBH, with a large standard deviation of 26% between runs. With the addition of the secondary membrane, the average permeability increases by 17%, with a significantly reduced standard deviation of 7%. These suggest that the secondary layer acts as a sacrificial shield, attracting the nanoplastic contaminants and preventing them from coming into close proximity with the primary membrane, thus preventing fouling at the primary rejection layer. Furthermore, due to the affinity of the nanoplastic particles with the secondary graphene membrane, this membrane design points toward an effective and efficient way of extracting nanoplastic particles for further analysis or processing.

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