We demonstrate efficient antifouling and low protein adhesion of multiwalled carbon nanotubes-polyamide nanocomposite (MWCNT-PA) reverse-osmosis (RO) membranes by combining experimental and theoretical studies using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled bovine serum albumin (FITC-BSA) was used for the fouling studies. The fouling was observed in real time by using a crossflow system coupled to a fluorescence microscope. Notably, it was observed that BSA anchoring on the smooth MWCNT-PA membrane was considerably weaker than that of other commercial/laboratory-made plain PA membranes. The permeate flux reduction of the MWCNT-PA nanocomposite membranes by the addition of FITC-BSA was 15% of its original value, whereas those of laboratory-made plain PA and commercial membranes were much larger at 34%-50%. Computational MD simulations indicated that the presence of MWCNT in PA results in weaker interactions between the membrane surface and BSA molecule due to the formation of (i) a stiffer PA structure resulting in lower conformity of the molecular structure against BSA, (ii) a smoother surface morphology, and (iii) an increased hydrophilicity involving the formation of an interfacial water layer. These results are important for the design and development of promising antiorganic fouling RO membranes for water treatment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)