Review of membrane fabrication: structure, properties, and performance relationship

Average pore size of the membranes used in different membrane processes.
Average pore size of the membranes used in different membrane processes.

In this review, researchers from Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi and Swansea University in the UK discuss polymeric membrane fabrication techniques for pressure-driven membrane processes and membrane distillation.

The fabrication technique, properties of the fabricated membranes, and performance in water desalination are related. Important parameters which affect the membrane performance – such as crystallinity of the membrane based polymer, porous structure, hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity, membrane charge, and surface roughness – are analysed.

There is extensive knowledge on how to ‘tailor’ the membrane pore structure – including its surface properties and cross-section morphology – by selection of appropriate fabrication methods. However, it is still a challenge to produce reliable membranes with antifouling properties, chemical resistance, and high mechanical strength with high flux and selectivity.

To ensure progress in membrane performance, further improvements are needed in common membrane fabrication techniques such as phase inversion and interfacial polymerisation. At the same time, the potential of novel fabrication techniques such as electrospinning and track-etching needs to be assessed.

A comprehensive understanding between structure–surface properties and performance is key to further development and progress in membrane technology for water desalination.

Desalination, Volume 326, 1 October 2013, Pages 77–95.