Block Copolymer Membranes for Aqueous Solution Applications
Macromolecules, Article ASAP, (2016)
Block copolymers are known for their intricate morphology. We review the state of the art of block copolymer membranes and discuss perspectives in this field. The main focus is on pore morphology tuning with a short introduction on nonporous membranes. The two main strategies for pore formation in block copolymer membranes are (i) film casting and selective block sacrifice and (ii) self-assembly and nonsolvent-induced phase separation (SNIPS). Different fundamental aspects involved in the manufacture of block copolymer membranes are considered, including factors affecting the equilibrium morphology in solid films, self-assembly of copolymer in solutions, and macrophase separation by solvent–nonsolvent exchange. Different mechanisms are proposed for different depths of the SNIPS membrane. Block copolymer membranes can be prepared with much narrower pore size distribution than homopolymer membranes. Open questions and indications of what we consider the next development steps are finally discussed. They include the synthesis and application of new copolymers and specific functionalization, adding characteristics to respond to stimuli and chemical environment, polymerization-induced phase separation, and the manufacture of organic–inorganic hybrids.