Internal concentration polarization (ICP) in forward osmosis (FO) process is a characteristic problem for asymmetric thin-film composite (TFC) FO membrane which leads to lower water flux. To mitigate the ICP effect, modification of the substrates’ properties has been one of the most effective methods. A new polyethersulfone-based ultrafiltration membrane with increased surface porosity and high water flux was recently produced by incorporating Zn2
nanowires. The composite membrane was used as a substrate for the fabrication of TFC FO membrane, by coating a thin layer of polyamide on top of the substrate. The substrate and the nanowires were characterized by a range of techniques such as SEM, XRD, and contact angle goniometry. The water permeability and molecular weight cut-offs (MWCO) of the substrate; and the FO performance of the TFC membrane were also determined. The Zn2
-modified membrane showed ~45% increase in water permeability and NaCl salt rejection of 80% under RO mode. In FO mode, the ratio of water flux to reverse solute flux was also improved. However, lower FO flux was obtained which could be due to ICP. The result shows that Zn2
nanowire may be used as a modifier to the substrate to improve the quality of the polyamide layer on the substrate to improve the flux and selectivity, but not as effective in reducing ICP. This work demonstrates that the incorporation of nanomaterials to the membrane substrate may be an alternative approach to improve the formation of polyamide skin layer to achieve better FO performance.
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