Membranes are finding wide applications in various fields spanning biological, water, and energy areas. Synthesis of membranes to provide tunable flux, metal sorption, and catalysis has been done through pore functionalization of microfiltration (MF) type membranes with responsive behavior. This methodology provides an opportunity to improve synthetic membrane performance via polymer fabrication and surface modification. By optimizing the polymer coagulation conditions in phase inversion fabrication, spongy polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) membranes with high porosity and large internal pore volume were created in lab and full scale. This robust membrane shows a promising mechanical strength as well as high capacity for loading of adsorptive and catalytic materials. By applying surface modification techniques, synthetic membranes with different functionality (carboxyl, amine, and nanoparticle-based) were obtained. These functionalities provide an opportunity to fine-tune the membrane surface properties such as charge and reactivity. The incorporation of stimuli-responsive acrylic polymers (polyacrylic acid or sodium polyacrylate) in membrane pores also results in tunable pore size and ion-exchange capacity. This provides the added benefits of adjustable membrane permeability and metal capture efficiency. The equilibrium and dynamic binding capacity of these functionalized spongy membranes were studied via calcium ion-exchange. Iron/palladium catalytic nanoparticles were immobilized in the polymer matrix in order to perform the challenging degradation of the environmental pollutant trichloroethylene (TCE).

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Published in Polymers, v. 8, issue 2, 32, p. 1-17.

© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This project has been supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH-NIEHS-SRP) under Award Number P42ES007380, and by NSF KY EPSCoR program.