Fabrication of Osmotic Distillation Membranes for Feeds Containing Surface-Active Agents

Xu, Juanbao (2005) Fabrication of Osmotic Distillation Membranes for Feeds Containing Surface-Active Agents. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


The present work was undertaken to develop a composite osmotic distillation (OD) membrane consisting of a thin hydrogel coating on a microporous hydrophobic substrate for the concentration of aqueous feeds containing surface-active agents. The range of OD applications using the hydrophobic membrane alone have been severely limited by the propensity for membrane wet-out when contacted by amphiphilic agents such as oils, fats and detergents. Wet-out allows the feed solution to track freely through the membrane pores with a resulting loss of solutes and a decrease in selectivity. The rationale for the approach taken was based on the hypothesis that the high water selectivity of the hydrophilic coating would maintain good water mass transfer to the underlying hydrophobic substrate but exclude other components including surface-active agents. The first stage of this work involved the identification of potential coating materials and the fabrication and structural characterization of films of these materials to determine their suitability. The second stage involved the development of techniques to facilitate adhesion of the hydrophilic coatings to the hydrophobic substrate, and the testing of the resulting composite membranes for OD performance and resistance to wet-out by surface-active agents.

Sodium alginate was selected as the major coating component on the basis of its non-toxicity and its potential for stable hydrogel formation. Structural characterization of noncrosslinked films and films crosslinked using a water-soluble carbodiimide (WSC) was carried out using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), Fourier Transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) and swelling measurements. Maximum crosslinking through esterification of hydroxyl and carboxylic acid groups on adjacent polymer strands using the film immersion method was achieved with a non-solvent (ethanol) concentration of 60 vol % and a WSC concentration of 100 mM at pH 4. These conditions resulted in a hydrogel with an equilibrium water content of 60 wt %.

DSC measurements of noncrosslinked and crosslinked alginate films showed an increase in crystallinity and hence rigidity on crosslinking. Therefore, several coatings were prepared as blends of sodium alginate and amorphous highly flexible carrageenan gum in order to meet the flexibility requirements of a membrane subjected to varying operating pressures in an industrial OD plant. Structural characterization with respect to polymer blend ratio was carried out using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), DSC, X-ray diffraction (XRD). The optimisation for crosslinking conditions was undertaken as for sodium alginate alone. Optimum conditions for film preparation were 20 wt % carrageenan content and a crosslinking medium containing 60 vol % non-solvent (ethanol) and 120 mM WSC at pH 4. These conditions produced a hydrogel with an equilibrium water content of 85 wt %.

Two different techniques were employed to anchor the coatings on substrate PTFE membranes. For membranes with a nominal diameter of 0.2 µm, the technique involved surface tension adjustment of the coating solution by ethanol addition in order to enhance penetration of the coating solution meniscus into the substrate pores. This was followed by polymer precipitation by the selective removal of water using OD to provide structural interlocking. T-peel strength measurements showed that this technique resulted in a ten-fold increase in adhesion strength when compared with a coating cast without surface tension adjustments. For membranes with a nominal diameter of 0.1µm, an interfacial bonding agent, myristyltrimethylammonium bromide (MTMA), was used. This technique gave a three-fold increase in adhesion strength relative to that of coating cast without the use of MTMA.

The composite membranes were tested in extended OD trials using pure water and feeds containing limonene, the major surface-active components of orange oil. The sodium alginate-carrageenan blend membrane, which was the preferred membrane based on flexibility and water sorption considerations, was also tested against full-cream milk and an industrial detergent, sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate (DBS). The results indicated that the coatings offered little resistance to water transport and were effective in providing protection against membrane wet-out. Durability trials showed that the composite membranes retained their integrity in water for a minimum of 30 days.

Overall, this study has expanded the potential applications of OD to include many important industrial concentration steps that are currently being undertaken by conventional processes with unsatisfactory results. These include the concentration of citrus juices, full-cream milk and nuclear power plant liquid waste. These feeds contain limonene, fats and detergents respectively, all of which wet out unprotected hydrophobic membranes.

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ID Code: 16049
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Johnson, Robert, Bartley, John, & Upton, Zee
Keywords: Osmotic distillation; membrane distillation; hydrophobic microporous PTFE membrane; membrane wet-out; surface-active agents; alginate–based hydrogel coatings; physical interfacial bonding; coating pore penetration, composite membranes
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Past > Schools > School of Physical & Chemical Sciences
Department: Faculty of Science
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Juanbao Xu
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:55
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:42

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