Biomimetic Membranes

Safe and sufficient water relies nowadays on membrane technology, which is used for water treatments such as virus retention, ion retention and ion separation. However, commercial membranes used in these processes are characterized by heterogeneous and low porosity and a broad pore size distribution. Therefore it is desirable to fabricate new isoporous, high-flux membranes with pores in the range of nanometers.

Approach and objectives

The goal of this project is to fabricate new thin, isoporous membranes with pore sizes in the range of a few tenths of nanometers for filtration of, e.g., viruses. Nature provides a lot of examples that can be used for producing new types of membranes, which exhibit high selectivity and permeability. Therefore, in this project biological structures and mechanisms will be used as inspiration for developing new membranes. Some of these biology-inspired ideas are:

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Self-assembling of amphiphilic molecules such as proteins and block-copolymers that form nanostructures

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Lipid bilayers

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Microporous organic networks

This project will first focus on the self-assembling ability of amphiphilic diblock-copolymers. These block copolymers consist of a hydrophobic and hydrophilic polymer block, which enables them to self-assemble into a variety of nanostructures [1]. We will use the self-assembling property for the fabrication of membranes, and try to tune the structure of these membranes by choosing appropriate parameters for membrane preparation (block copolymers type, polymer solution and solvent type). The prepared membranes will be characterized in terms of permeability, selectivity and fouling.

Acknowledgement

This is a NanonextNL project

References

1. Kim, J.K., et al., Functional nanomaterials based on block copolymer self-assembly. Progress in Polymer Science (Oxford), 2010. 35(11): p. 1325-1349.