Ultrasonication favors TiO2 nano-particles dispersion in PVDF ultrafiltration membrane to effectively enhance membrane hydrophilicity and anti-fouling capability

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The influence of ultrasonication on membrane performance was investigated by two ultrasonication modes, direct and indirect ultrasonication as pretreatment, and simply improved PVDF-TiO2 membranes’ performance was systematically compared. Ultrasound intensity of 100% and ultrasonication time ranged from 1 to 2 h positively affect membrane permeability. Characterization results manifested that membrane structure was eventually optimized with an even nano-TiO2 dispersion by direct ultrasonication. Analysis of surface roughness reflected that PVDF-TiO2 (MS-U2) surface morphological pattern was peak-valley structure that resisted fouling greatly. A good fitting of experimental result and Tansel’s simulation illustrated that anti-fouling ability was realized direct ultrasonication modified membrane. PVDF-TiO2 (MS-U2) membrane showing the lowest |τ| reflecting the time required to reach a certain level of the fouling degree was the lowest. Relying upon modified Hermia’s model analysis, protein blockage within the membrane pore was one major fouling mechanism; surface blockage degree of PVDF-TiO2 (MS-U2) was relative slight. Fouling mechanism analyzed by two models reflected that PVDF-TiO2 (MS-U2) membrane exhibited a higher anti-protein fouling ability during cross-flow filtration process.

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Poly(vinylidene fluoride)


Polyethylene glycol






Carbon nanotubes


Graphene oxides




Reverse osmosis




N, N-dimethylacetamide


Scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectrometer


Fourier Transform infrared spectroscopy


Atomic force microscope


X-ray diffraction

J w :

Pure water flux



K c :

A coefficient that the membrane surface blocked by per unit of total permeated volume through the whole membrane and surface porosity

K s :

A coefficient reflected that he volume of maintained molecule per unit of filtrated permeated volume, related to membrane thickness and internal porosity

K i :

A coefficient stood for the blocked membrane surface per unit of total permeate volume and per unit of initial surface porosity

K gl :

A coefficient represented the ratio of gel layer and unpolluted membrane areas


Mechanical stirring


PVDF membrane prepared with 1% nano-TiO2 which dispersed via mechanical stirring only

PVDF-TiO2 (MS-U1):

PVDF membrane prepared with 1% nano-TiO2 which dispersed via mechanical stirring coupled with indirect ultrasonication

PVDF-TiO2 (MS-U2):

PVDF membrane prepared with 1% nano-TiO2 which dispersed via mechanical stirring coupled with direct ultrasonication


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Correspondence to Feiyun Sun.

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Xie, W., Li, J., Sun, F. et al. Ultrasonication favors TiO2 nano-particles dispersion in PVDF ultrafiltration membrane to effectively enhance membrane hydrophilicity and anti-fouling capability. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2020) doi:10.1007/s11356-019-06862-9

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  • PVDF membrane
  • Nano-TiO2 dispersion
  • Hydrophilicity modification
  • Ultrasonication pretreatment
  • Anti-fouling ability
  • Protein fouling