Effect of Loading and Functionalization of Carbon Nanotube on the Performance of Blended Polysulfone/Polyethersulfone Membrane during Treatment of Wastewater Containing Phenol and Benzene
School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, South Africa
Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, University of Pretoria, Private bag X20 Hatfield, Pretoria 0028, South Africa
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Membranes 2020, 10(3), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/membranes10030054
Received: 10 December 2019 / Revised: 13 January 2020 / Accepted: 24 January 2020 / Published: 24 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Point-of-use Membrane Technologies: Challenges and Opportunities)
In this study, a carbon nanotube (CNT)-infused blended polymer membrane was prepared and evaluated for phenol and benzene removal from petroleum industry wastewater. A 25:75 (by weight %) blended polysulfone/polyethersulfone (PSF/PES) membrane infused with CNTs was prepared and tested. The effect of functionalization of the CNTs on the quality and performance of the membrane was also investigated. The membranes were loaded with CNTs at different loadings: 0.5 wt. %, 1 wt. %, 1.5 wt. % pure CNTs (pCNTs) and 1 wt. % functionalized CNTs (fCNTs), to gain an insight into the effect of the amount of CNT on the quality and performance of the membranes. Physicochemical properties of the as-prepared membranes were obtained using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) for morphology, Raman spectroscopy for purity of the CNTs, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) for surface chemistry, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) for thermal stability, atomic force microscopy (AFM) for surface nature and nano-tensile analysis for the mechanical strength of the membranes. The performance of the membrane was tested with synthetic wastewater containing 20 ppm of phenol and 20 ppm of benzene using a dead-end filtration cell at a pressure ranging from 100 to 300 kPa. The results show that embedding CNTs in the blended polymer (PSF/PES) increased both the porosity and water absorption capacity of the membranes, thereby resulting in enhanced water flux up to 309 L/m2h for 1.5 wt. % pCNTs and 326 L/m2h for 1 wt. % functionalized CNT-loaded membrane. Infusing the polysulfone/polyethersulfone (PSF/PES) membrane with CNTs enhanced the thermal stability and mechanical strength. Results from AFM indicate enhanced hydrophilicity of the membranes, translating in the enhancement of anti-fouling properties of the membranes. However, the % rejection of membranes with CNTs decreased with an increase in pCNTs concentration and pressure, while it increased the membrane with fCNTs. The % rejection of benzene in the pCNTs membrane decreased with 13.5% and 7.55% in fCNT membrane while phenol decreased with 55.6% in pCNT membrane and 42.9% in the FCNT membrane. This can be attributed to poor CNT dispersion resulting in increased pore sizes observed when CNT concentration increases. Optimization of membrane synthesis might be required to enhance the separation performance of the membranes.