Polyethersulfone (PES) is a polymeric permeable material used in ultrafiltration (UF) membranes due to its high thermomechanical and chemical stability. The hydrophobic nature of PES membranes renders them prone to fouling and restricts the practical applications of PES in the fabrication of water treatment membranes. The present study demonstrates a non-solvent-induced phase separation (NIPS) approach to modifying PES membranes with different concentrations of discrete TiO2
nanotubes (TNTs). Zeta potential and contact angle measurements showed enhanced hydrophilicity and surface negative charge in TNTs/PES nanocomposite membranes compared to unmodified PES membranes. To discern the antifouling and permeation properties of the TNTs/PES membranes, steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) wastewater obtained from the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta was used. The TiO2
modified polymer nanocomposite membranes resulted in a higher organic matter rejection and water flux than the unmodified PES membrane. The addition of discrete TNTs at 1 wt% afforded maximum water flux (82 L/m2
h at 40 psi), organic matter rejection (53.9%), and antifouling properties (29% improvement in comparison to pristine PES membrane). An enhancement in fouling resistance of TNTs/PES nanocomposite membranes was observed in flux recovery ratio experiments.
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