Thermo-Responsive Hydrophilic Support for Polyamide Thin-Film Composite Membranes with Competitive Nanofiltration Performance
Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm) was introduced into a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) nonwoven fabric to develop novel support for polyamide (PA) thin-film composite (TFC) membranes without using a microporous support layer. First, temperature-responsive PNIPAAm hydrogel was prepared by reactive pore-filling to adjust the pore size of non-woven fabric, creating hydrophilic support. The developed PET-based support was then used to fabricate PA TFC membranes via interfacial polymerization. SEM–EDX and AFM results confirmed the successful fabrication of hydrogel-integrated non-woven fabric and PA TFC membranes. The newly developed PA TFC membrane demonstrated an average water permeability of 1 L/m 2 h bar, and an NaCl rejection of 47.0% at a low operating pressure of 1 bar. The thermo-responsive property of the prepared membrane was studied by measuring the water contact angle (WCA) below and above the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of the PNIPAAm hydrogel. Results proved the thermo-responsive behavior of the prepared hydrogel-filled PET-supported PA TFC membrane and the ability to tune the membrane flux by changing the operating temperature was confirmed. Overall, this study provides a novel method to fabricate TFC membranes and helps to better understand the influence of the support layer on the separation performance of TFC membranes.