How do polyethylene glycol and poly (sulfobetaine) hydrogel layers on ultrafiltration membranes minimize fouling and stay stable in cleaning
Ngoc Lieu Le, Mathias Ulbricht, Suzana P Nunes
Ind. & Eng. Chem. Res., 56, 6785-6795 (2017)
We compare the efficiency of grafting polyethylene glycol (PEG) and poly(sulfobetaine) hydrogel layer on poly(ether imide) (PEI) hollow-fiber ultrafiltration membrane surfaces in terms of filtration performance, fouling minimization and stability in cleaning solutions. Two previously established different methods toward the two different chemistries (and both had already proven to be suited to reduce fouling significantly) are applied to the same PEI membranes. The hydrophilicity of PEI membranes is improved by the modification, as indicated by the change of contact angle value from 89° to 68° for both methods, due to the hydration layer formed in the hydrogel layers. Their pure water flux declines because of the additional permeation barrier from the hydrogel layers. However, these barriers increase protein rejection. In the exposure at a static condition, grafting PEG or poly(sulfobetaine) reduces protein adsorption to 23% or 11%, respectively. In the dynamic filtration, the hydrogel layers minimizes the flux reduction and increases the reversibility of fouling. Compared to the pristine PEI membrane that can recover its flux to 42% after hydraulic cleaning, the PEG and poly(sulfobetaine) grafted membranes can recover their flux up to 63% and 94%, respectively. Stability tests show that the poly(sulfobetaine) hydrogel layer is stable in acid, base and chlorine solutions, whereas the PEG hydrogel layer suffers alkaline hydrolysis in base and oxidation in chlorine conditions. With its chemical stability and pronounced capability of minimizing fouling, especially irreversible fouling, protective poly(sulfobetaine) hydrogel layers have great potential for various membrane-based applications.