The use of a nonconventional water resource for energy and industrial applications often requires extraction of low-level undesirable ions from matrices of benign dominant ions. In this study, the selective extraction of Ba2+and Mg2+from synthetic brine solutions was evaluated using strong acid cation-exchange membranes modified with the surface deposition of macrocyclic molecules including crown ethers and calixarenes. Compared to the bare membrane, vinylbenzo-18-crown-6 (VB18C6) and calixarene-amended membranes showed increased selectivity for Ba2+and Mg2+with respect to the dominant ion (Na+) by up to fourfolds, with the calixarene-modified membrane achieving more selective separation than VB18C6. Optimal selectivity was achieved at a moderate-to-high current density (3.1-6.3 mA/cm2), which was attributed to the alleviation of transport limitation in the boundary layer by the surface modification. Amendment of a calixarene derivative with a crown-6 "boot strap" and two carboxylic groups resulted in reduced selectivity due to the formation of strong complexes with divalent ions. These results show that surface deposition of ion sequestrants can be a versatile approach to improve the membrane's selectivity; however, the performance is sensitive to feed water salinity, current loading, and the macrocycle-ion chemistry, where there is a trade-off between ion affinity and mobility.
- crown ether
- divalent selectivity