PhD project

Sustainable membranes with biological functionalities for advanced water treatment

Lijie Li (PhD Candidate), Wiebe de Vos (promotor), Saskia Lindhoud (co-promotor)

Duration: 2020-2024

Funding: China Scholarship Council (CSC)

Membrane technology plays an important role in many fields, including agriculture, industry, and medicine. An aqueous phase separation (APS) approach has been developed to prepare synthetic polyelectrolyte complex membranes. This approach uses water as both solvent and non-solvent, which effectively eliminates the need for harmful organic solvents as required for the traditional nonsolvent-induced phase separation (NIPS) method. Compared to synthetic polyelectrolytes, natural polyelectrolytes possess the advantages of nontoxicity, biocompatibility, and biodegradability, and their membranes can also be applied to extensive fields like synthetic membranes. Therefore, it is promising to prepare more sustainable natural polyelectrolyte membranes through the APS approach. Moreover, different enzymes could be introduced to prepare membranes with biological functionalities, which will be used in water treatment fields.

Key words
membranes, polyelectrolyte complex, aqueous phase separation, enzyme, bio-catalytic activity

Technological challenges
The APS method has been used to prepare synthetic polyelectrolyte membranes. However, these synthetic polyelectrolytes are still fossil-based, which is not totally sustainable. The aim of this work is to prepare more sustainable natural polyelectrolyte membranes with biological functionalities through the APS approach. However, the intrinsic property of natural polyelectrolytes is a challenge and will influence the membrane properties a lot.

Research goals

Picture derived from: Li, L., Baig, M.I., de Vos, W.M., Lindhoud, S., ACS Applied Polymer Materials, 2023, 5(3): 1810-1818.).