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Congratulations to Membrane Science Research Team of BUCT for Their Work Published in Nature Communications

Recently,a membrane research team at Beijing University of Chemical Technology led by Professor Bing Cao and Associate Professor Pei Li published their outstanding work Tailoring the molecular structure of crosslinked polymers for pervaporation desalination inNature Communications(Nature Comm. (2020) 11:1461 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15038-w).

This work developed a pervaporation desalination membrane for treating highly concentrated brine solutions. How to desalinate concentrated salt solution or wastewater is a global problem. Pervaporation technology shows potential for solving this issue, but the critical challenge is to increase membrane flux. Li and Cao led their team and developed a three-prong methodology. First, combine molecular simulation with experimental validation to elucidate the facilitate transport mechanism of a water molecule in sulfonated polyvinyl alcohol. Second, optimize the structures of multi-layer composite pervaporation membranes. At last, develop a facial and scalable technology to fabricate thin-film ultra-permeable pervaporation desalination membranes. The membrane showed a water flux of 234.9 ± 8.1 kg m-2 h-1 for desalinating 1.5 wt% brackish water and 150 kg m-2 h-1 for 10 wt% brine solution. The fluxes were 300% higher than all reported pervaporation desalination membranes and greater than all membrane distillation membranes.

This research demonstrated that pervaporation membrane could solve the problem for treating highly concentrated salty wastewater and provided a solid technology to alleviate the water shortage problem.
Ph.D student Yunlong Xue from the College of Material Science and Engineering is the first author, and Prof. Pei Li is the corresponding author. The work was done at Beijing University of Chemical Technology and funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (51773011), National Key Research and Development Project, and the Specialized Fund for the Basic Research Operating expenses Program of Central Universities.

 

Fig. 1 Structures of the crosslinkers and composite PV membranes. a, the molecular structures of crosslinkers and the reaction scheme for crosslinking PVA films. b, the diagrams of water transport from a NaCl feed solution through the PVA based TFC membranes using porous substrates including CPVC ultrafiltration membrane, alumina disc and PAN nanofiber mats.

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