Phosphorene is a promising candidate as a membrane material additive because of its inherent photocatalytic properties and electrical conductance which can help reduce fouling and improve membrane properties. The main objective of this study was to characterize structural and morphologic changes arising from the addition of phosphorene to polymeric membranes. Here, phosphorene was physically incorporated into a blend of polysulfone (PSf) and sulfonated poly ether ether ketone (SPEEK) doping solution. Protein and dye rejection studies were carried out to determine the permeability and selectivity of the membranes. Since loss of material additives during filtration processes is a challenge, the stability of phosphorene nanoparticles in different environments was also examined. Furthermore, given that phosphorene is a new material, toxicity studies with a model nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, were carried out to provide insight into the biocompatibility and safety of phosphorene. Results showed that membranes modified with phosphorene displayed a higher protein rejection, but lower flux values. Phosphorene also led to a 70% reduction in dye fouling after filtration. Additionally, data showed that phosphorene loss was negligible within the membrane matrix irrespective of the pH environment. Phosphorene caused toxicity to nematodes in a free form, while no toxicity was observed for membrane permeates.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Polymers, v. 12, issue 7, 1555.

© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Cooperative Agreement No. 1355438, by the NSF Kentucky EPSCoR Program and the University of Kentucky Ignite Research Collaboration. OVT was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S Department of Agriculture, under NC-1194. GPW was supported by Summer Undergraduate Research in Environmental Sciences (SURES) funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) R25ES027684.