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Using in situ modification to enhance organic fouling resistance and rejection of pharmaceutical and personal care products in a thin-film composite nanofiltration membrane

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A commercially available nanofiltration membrane, NF90, was modified using an in situ concentration polarization-enhanced radical graft polymerization method to improve the organic fouling resistance as well as the removal of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), including ibuprofen (IBU), carbamazepine, sulfadiazine, sulfamethoxazole, sulfamethazine, and triclosan (TRI). 3-Sulfopropyl methacrylate potassium salt (SPM) and 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA) were used in various dosages for surface modification, and the extent of membrane modifications was quantified based on the degree of grafting. The modified NF90 exhibited a 15–40% lower flux during humic acid (HA) fouling and 25% greater NaCl rejection compared with the virgin membrane. PPCP rejection in the modified NF90 membranes before and after HA fouling was 20–45% and 5–20% greater, respectively, compared with that of the virgin membrane. Both SPM and HEMA increased the hydrophilicity of NF90 by decreasing contact angles. Scanning electron microscopy revealed lower amounts of foulants on the modified NF90 than on the virgin membrane. The main fouling mechanism for virgin NF90 was gel layer formation and those for modified NF90 were complete and intermediate blocking. Therefore, the modification of NF90 was effective for controlling organic fouling and strongly rejecting PPCPs.

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This study received financial support from Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST 107-2221-E-992-008-MY3 and 104-2221-E-327-001-MY3).

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Correspondence to Yi-Li Lin.

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Responsible editor: Angeles Blanco

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Lin, Y., Tsai, J. & Hung, C. Using in situ modification to enhance organic fouling resistance and rejection of pharmaceutical and personal care products in a thin-film composite nanofiltration membrane. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 34073–34084 (2019).

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  • In situ modification
  • Radical graft polymerization
  • Antifouling
  • Nanofiltration
  • Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs)
  • Adsorption
  • Modified Hermia model