Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Chemical and Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Dibakar Bhattacharyya


Membrane process including microfiltration (MF), ultrafiltration (UF), nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) have provided numerous successful applications ranging from drinking water purification, wastewater treatment, to material recovery. The addition of functional moiety in the membranes pores allows such membranes to be used in challenging areas including tunable separations, toxic metal capture, and catalysis. In this work, polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) MF membrane was functionalized with temperature responsive (poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), PNIPAAm) and pH responsive (polyacrylic acid, PAA) polymers. It’s revealed that the permeation of various molecules (water, salt and dextran) through the membrane can be thermally or pH controlled. The introduction of PAA as a polyelectrolyte offers an excellent platform for the immobilization of metal nanoparticles (NPs) applied for degradation of toxic chlorinated organics with significantly increased longevity and stability. The advantage of using temperature and pH responsive polymers/hydrogels also includes the high reactivity and effectiveness in dechlorination.

Further advancement on the PVDF functionalization involved the alkaline treatment to create partially defluorinated membrane (Def-PVDF) with conjugated double bounds allowing for the covalent attachment of different polymers. The PAA-Def-PVDF membrane shows pH responsive behavior on both the hydraulic permeability and solute retention. The sponge-like PVDF (SPVDF) membranes by phase inversion were developed through casting PVDF solution on polyester backing. The SPVDF membrane was demonstrated to have 4 times more surface area than commercial PVDF MF membrane, allowing for enhanced nanoparticles loading for chloro-organics degradation. The advanced functionalization method and process were also validated to be able to be scaled-up through the evaluation of full-scale functionalized membrane provided by Ultura Inc. California, USA.

Nanofiltration (NF) between UF and RO presents selectivity controlled by both steric and electrostatic repulsions, which are widely used to reject charged species, particularly multivalent ions. In this work, selective permeation of CaCl2 and high sucrose retention are obtained through the modification of nanofiltration membranes with lower charge compared to commercial nanofiltration membrane. The membrane module also shows high stability with constant water permeability in a long-term (two months) test. Extended Nernst-Planck equation were further used to evaluate the experimental results and it fits well.