Engineered polymer mambranes could be new option for water treatment

Chemical and biomolecular engineers at the University of Notre Dame and Purdue University studied self-assembled block polymer membranes, which allow for both customizable and uniform pore sizes, as a platform for water treatment systems.

Chemical and biomolecular engineers at the University of Notre Dame and Purdue University studied self-assembled block polymer membranes, which allow for both customizable and uniform pore sizes, as a platform for water treatment systems.
The study, published in Nature Partner Journals - Clean Water, determined the platform has the potential to advance water treatment technologies. Until this research, polymer membranes, which act as a filter to desalinate and selectively remove contaminants from various water sources, have aided water treatment, but their selectivity remains a significant challenge when it comes to filtering chemical properties - a potential risk to the environment and human health. The research team focused on block polymer membranes because of their welldefined nanostructures and functionality. They were able to molecularly engineer the chemical properties of the polymer to create large areas of high-performance membrane, reduce pore size and design multifunctional pore wall chemistries for solute-specific separation. The membranes could essentially be customized depending on the water source and treatment needed.
Membranes that are more selective and more resilient to certain exposures such as chlorine or boric acid and less prone to collecting unwanted properties - or fouling - than current state-ofthe-art options could improve treatment in a number of ways. They could reduce the number of filtration passes required for irrigation, control concentrations of chlorine into the system to help forestall effects of biofouling and reduce chemical demands for membrane cleaning - reducing operating costs and environmental impact.
Transitioning the technology from the laboratory setting to practice presents its own set of challenges that will need to be addressed in the DROPLETS coming years. However, the researchers are hopeful the transition can be made since several of the techniques used to generate self-assembled block polymers are consistent with current membrane fabrication practices.