To sustain high performance of osmotic power generation by pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO) processes, fouling on PRO membranes must be mitigated. This is especially true for the porous support of PRO membranes because its porous structure is very prone to fouling by feeding river water. For the first time, we have successfully designed antifouling PRO thin-film composite (TFC) membranes by synthesizing a dendritic hydrophilic polymer with well-controlled grafting sites, hyperbranched polyglycerol (HPG), and then grafting it on poly(ether sulfone) (PES) hollow fiber membrane supports. Compared to the pristine PES membranes, polydopamine modified membranes, and conventional poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-grafted membranes, the HPG grafted membranes show much superior fouling resistance against bovine serum albumin (BSA) adsorption, E. coli adhesion, and S. aureus attachment. In high-pressure PRO tests, the PES TFC membranes are badly fouled by model protein foulants, causing a water flux decline of 31%. In comparison, the PES TFC membrane grafted by HPG not only has an inherently higher water flux and a higher power density but also exhibits better flux recovery up to 94% after cleaning and hydraulic pressure impulsion. Clearly, by grafting the properly designed dendritic polymers to the membrane support, one may substantially sustain PRO hollow fiber membranes for power generation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry