In the present study, nanocomposite ultrafiltration membranes were prepared by incorporating nanotubes clay halloysite (HNTs) into polysulfone (PSF) and PSF/polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) dope solutions followed by membrane casting using phase inversion method. Characterization of HNTs were conducted using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and thermogravimetric (TGA) analysis. The pore structure, morphology, hydrophilicity and mechanical properties of the composite membranes were characterized by using SEM, water contact angle (WCA) measurements, and dynamic mechanical analysis. It was shown that the incorporation of HNTs enhanced hydrophilicity and mechanical properties of the prepared PSF membranes. Compared to the pristine PSF membrane, results show that the total porosity and pore size of PSF/HNTs composite membranes increased when HNTs loadings were more than 0.5 wt % and 1.0 wt %, respectively. These findings correlate well with changes in water flux of the prepared membranes. It was observed that HNTs were homogenously dispersed within the PSF membrane matrix at HNTs content of 0.1 to 0.5 wt % and the PSF/HNTs membranes prepared by incorporating 0.2 wt % HNTs loading possess the optimal mechanical properties in terms of elastic modulus and yield stress. In the case of the PSF/PVP matrix, the optimal mechanical properties were obtained with 0.3 wt % of HNTs because PVP enhances the HNTs distribution. Results of bovine serum albumin (BSA) filtration tests indicated that PSF/0.2 wt % HNTs membrane exhibited high BSA rejection and notable anti-fouling properties.
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