Developing high-performance thin-film composite forward osmosis membranes by various tertiary amine catalysts for desalination

  • Liang Shen
  • Lian Tian
  • Jian Zuo
  • Xuan Zhang
  • Shipeng Sun
  • Yan WangEmail author
Original Research


A desirable membrane with high separation performance, excellent antifouling properties, and chemical stability is important to the advance of forward osmosis (FO) technology in the wastewater treatment and desalination processes. In this work, three different tertiary amines, i.e., tri-ethylamine (TEA), tris(2-aminoethyl) amine (TAEA), and hexamethylenetetramine (HMTA), are employed as catalysts to accelerate the interfacial polymerization (IP) reaction for constructing the PA layer with optimized properties and performance of the resulting membranes. For the first time, the effect of different tertiary amines on the microstructure, morphology, and surface properties of formed PA layers, as well as the separation performance, fouling, and chemical resistance of the resulting TFC membranes, are studied systematically with various characterization techniques. As compared with the control membrane, modified membranes exhibit obviously improved separation performance and greater potential in the desalination process. Furthermore, modified membranes also exhibit improved fouling resistance and chemical stability. Therefore, the tertiary amine modification of TFC membranes may shed a new light for their future applications in harsh conditions.

Graphical abstract


Forward osmosis Thin-film composite membrane In situ modification Tertiary amine catalyst Desalination 



We thank the financial support from the National Key Technology Support Program (no. 2014BAD12B06); National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 21306058); Natural Science Foundation of Hubei Scientific Committee (2016CFA001); and Opening project of Key Laboratory of Biomedical Polymers of Ministry of Education at Wuhan University (no. 20140401). Special thanks are also given to the Analysis and Testing Center, the Analysis and Testing Center of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering School, and the State Key Laboratory of Materials Processing and Die & Mould Technology, in Huazhong University of Science and Technology, for their help with material characterizations.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

42114_2018_70_MOESM1_ESM.docx (774 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 773 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liang Shen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lian Tian
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jian Zuo
    • 3
  • Xuan Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shipeng Sun
    • 4
  • Yan Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Material Chemistry for Energy Conversion and Storage, Ministry of EducationHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Hubei Key Laboratory of Material Chemistry and Service Failure, School of Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Singapore Institute of technologySingaporeSingapore
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Materials-Oriented Chemical EngineeringNanjing Tech UniversityNanjingChina

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