Antifouling graphene oxide membranes for oil-water separation via hydrophobic chain engineering

C Yang and MY Long and CT Ding and RN Zhang and SY Zhang and JQ Yuan and KD Zhi and ZY Yin and Y Zheng and YW Liu and H Wu and ZY Jiang, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 13, 7334 (2022).

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-35105-8

Engineering surface chemistry to precisely control interfacial interactions is crucial for fabricating superior antifouling coatings and separation membranes. Here, we present a hydrophobic chain engineering strategy to regulate membrane surface at a molecular scale. Hydrophilic phytic acid and hydrophobic perfluorocarboxylic acids are sequentially assembled on a graphene oxide membrane to form an amphiphilic surface. The surface energy is reduced by the introduction of the perfluoroalkyl chains while the surface hydration can be tuned by changing the hydrophobic chain length, thus synergistically optimizing both fouling-resistance and fouling-release properties. It is found that the surface hydration capacity changes nonlinearly as the perfluoroalkyl chain length increases from C-4 to C-10, reaching the highest at C-6 as a result of the more uniform water orientation as demonstrated by molecular dynamics simulations. The as-prepared membrane exhibits superior antifouling efficacy (flux decline ratio <10%, flux recovery ratio similar to 100%) even at high permeance (similar to 620 L m(-2) h(-1) bar(-1)) for oil-water separation.

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