PhD project

Asymmetric polyelectrolyte multilayer membranes for micro-pollutant removal

Jurjen Regenspurg (PhD Candidate), Wiebe de Vos (promotor), Erik Roesink (promotor) 

Duration: 2018-2022

Funding: NWO INNOVATION FUND – LIFT  with financial support from NX Filtration and Drinking water Company Oasen 

There is growing awareness and concern about the presence of so called micro-pollutants (MP’s) in our surface water and drinking water. MP’s, very small organic molecules (100-1000 dalton) stem from industrial, medicinal and agricultural waste. They have the potential to cause long-term harm to humans and the environment, something especially true for MP’s classified as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals for which it is known that even at very low concentrations they can have a significant negative effect on health and environment. The new to develop membranes are able to efficiently remove MP’s while at the same time are able to help in the ongoing challenge of providing sufficient drinking water.

Key words
Micro-pollutants, polyelectrolyte complexation, asymmetric membranes, polyelectrolyte multilayers

Technological challenges
Current state-of-the-art technologies like reverse osmosis (RO) have significant drawbacks. Operation of RO membranes is done at high pressures and thus high energy demand. Furthermore RO membranes are very susceptible to fouling but have low chemical stability against current cleaning methods. This fouling can only be prevented by using expensive pre-treatment, making these membranes costly to operate.    

Research goals
In this project we aim to develop a novel asymmetric polyelectrolyte (PEM) membrane which is specifically designed for the removal of MP’s. The membrane will combine relative high permeabilities with high MP rejection. Furthermore, these PEM membranes have shown to have higher resistance against chemical cleaning methods.  Also, we aim to get fundamental understanding of these novel membranes regarding their permeation and rejection behavior.