A facile method to functionalize engineering solid membrane supports for rapid and efficient oil-water separation

Benxin Jing, Haitao Wang, Kun Yi Lin, Paul J. McGinn, Chongzheng Na, Yingxi Zhu

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33 Scopus citations


A facile and low-cost method is developed to functionalize engineering metal membrane supports, such as stainless steel (SS), with epoxy-containing polymer poly(glycidyl methacrylate) (PGMA) to produce a versatile and universal platform for subsequent surface modification. With a PGMA anchoring layer, we have demonstrated that hydrogel particles, such as polyacrylamide-co- poly(acrylic acid) (PAM-co-PAA), can be subsequently grafted to form functional polymer membranes for rapid and efficient oil-water separation. By contact angle and AFM measurement, we have confirmed that PAM-co-PAA hydrogel particle layer grafted on a PGMA-modified SS surface exhibits excellent selectivity as required for liquid-liquid separation, showing high affinity to water but not to oils as an ideal membrane for oil-water separation. To evaluate the separation efficiency, a simple flow-through device is employed to separate free-floating oil from water in the mixture of varied initial oil volume fraction and oil composition. Under substantially high pump flow rate up to 1.3 L/min, PAM-co-PAA hydrogel treated SS mesh can achieve excellent separation efficiency with less than 5% oil or water in the respective filtrate at the flux of as high as 540 m3/(m2·h) and retentate at the flux of 1.95 m 3/(m2·h). This separation efficiency is better than, or comparable to, the maximal performance achieved using conventional gravity methods at much lower flow rate. Similar approach could be also adapted to graft superhydrophobic and superoleophilic polymer membranes with PGMA-treated engineering support to separate water from oil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5771-5778
Number of pages8
Issue number21
StatePublished - Oct 4 2013


  • Hydrogel membrane
  • Oil-water separation
  • PGMA surface modification


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