Water and salt transport structure/property relationships in polymer membranes for desalination and power generation applications
MetadataShow full item record
Providing sustainable supplies of water and energy is a critical global challenge. Polymer membranes dominate desalination and could be crucial to power generation applications, which include reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), forward osmosis (FO), pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO), electrodialysis (ED), membrane capacitive deionization (CDI), and reverse electrodialysis (RED). Improved membranes with tailored water and salt transport properties are required to extend and optimize these technologies. Water and salt transport structure/property relationships provide the fundamental framework for optimizing polymer materials for membrane applications. The water and salt transport and free volume properties of a series of sulfonated styrenic pentablock copolymers were characterized. The polymers' water uptake and water permeability increase with degree of sulfonation, and the block molecular weights could be used to tune water uptake, permeability, and selectivity properties. The presence of fixed charge groups, i.e., sulfonate groups, on the polymer backbone influence the material's salt transport properties. Specifically, the salt permeability increases strongly with increasing salt concentration, and this increase is a result of increases in both salt sorption and diffusivity with salt concentration. The data for the sulfonated polymers, including a sulfonated polysulfone random copolymer, are compared to those for an uncharged polymer to determine the influence of polymer charge on salt transport properties. The sulfonated styrenic pentablock copolymer permeability data are compared to literature data using the water permeability and water/salt selectivity tradeoff relationship. Fundamental transport property comparisons can be made using this relationship. The effect of osmotic de-swelling on the polymers and the transport properties of composite membranes made from sulfonated styrenic pentablock copolymers are also discussed. The sulfonated styrenic pentablock copolymers were exposed to multi-valent ions to determine their effect on the polymer's salt transport properties. Magnesium chloride permeability depends less on upstream salt concentration than sodium chloride permeability, presumably due to stronger association between the sulfonate groups and magnesium compared to sodium ions. Triethylaluminum was used to neutralize the polymer's sulfonic acid functionality and presumably cross-link the polymer. The mechanical, transport, and free volume properties of these aluminum neutralized polymers were studied.