Hydrophilic Polysulfone-Hydrogel Membrane Material for Improved Nanofiltration in Wastewater Treatment
Over the last decade polysulfone membranes have been demonstrated to be one of the best membrane types in wastewater treatment, especially in ultrafiltration, owing to its mechanical robustness, structural and chemical stability. Regrettably these membranes are mostly hydrophobic by nature and therefore highly vulnerable to fouling due to chemosorptive mechanisms. Fouling may be caused by cake formation on the surface of the membrane or by surface assimilation of the foulants. Many studies have been directed at improving hydrophilic properties of polysulfone membranes by introducing different types of nanoparticle composite such as TiO2, ZnO2, Au and Ag nanoparticles to the polymer matrix, in order to reduce fouling potential and increase membrane performance. In the present investigation a hydrogel material was developed by crosslinking polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) with polysulfone (PSF), using glutaraldehyde as crosslinker. PVA has excellent film formation, emulsifying and adhesive properties, it is highly flexible and has high tensile strength. Introducing PVA into the PSF polymer matrix was expected to impart its advantageous properties onto the resulting membrane and enhance hydrophilic characteristics of the membrane. The cross linking of PVA and PSF was controlled at three different ratios to evaluate the effect of the PSF contribution i.e. 25:75, 50:50 and 75:25. The crosslinked polymer composites produced three unique hydrogel materials, which were evaluated for the separation of selected small organic molecules, under hydrodynamic conditions, using rotating disk electrochemistry. The hydrogel thin film behaved as a chemical sensor for the oxidation of tannic acid in aqueous solution, with negligible shift in peak potential as a function of concentration. The nanomaterials prepared were characterised using spectroscopic, morphological and electrochemical techniques. Hydrogel performance in the presence of analyte molecule was evaluated by hydrodynamic voltammetry and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. From calibration curves based on cyclic voltammetry, hydrodynamic, macroscopic and spectroscopic techniques, the 75% polysulfone and 25 % polyvinyl alcohol hydrogel (75:25 PSF-PVA) presented the best performance for quantitative detection and best sensitivity toward alginic acid and tannic acid than the corresponding composites (50:50 and 25:75 PSF-PVA). Optical results (contact angle) show an agreement with spectroscopic (EC) and microscopic (AFM) result. A decrease in contact angle gives an increase in roughness and diffusion coefficient. High surface roughness was linked to improved hydrophilicity of the polysulfone.