Hydrophilization of polysulfone membranes using a binary graft copolymer

Yang Yang, Lei Miao, Jiwen Hu, Guojun Liu, Yuanyuan Tu, Shudong Lin, Feng Liu, Fei Li, Yan Wu, Ganwei Zhang, Hailiang Zou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


An amphiphilic binary graft copolymer polysulfone-graft-[poly(methyl methacrylate)-random-poly(acrylic acid)], PSf-g-(PMMA-r-PAA), was synthesized via a combination of atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) and click chemistry. This copolymer and polysulfone (PSf) were used to prepare porous membranes through the phase inversion method, which involved dissolving the polymers in a common solvent N-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP), casting the solution onto a glass plate to obtain a film, and subsequently immersing this film into a coagulant (a mixture of dimethylformamide and water at a given pH). The surfaces of the membrane and its pore walls were covered by the copolymer, and these surfaces were enriched with PAA domains due to the immiscibility of PAA and PSf and the miscibility of PMMA and PSf. More specifically, while the hydrophobic PMMA component served as an anchor to fix the graft copolymer onto the PSf bulk substrate, the hydrophilic PAA component assembled and became exposed at the surfaces of the membrane and the pore walls. Factors influencing this surface AA concentration or carboxyl group content (CGC) enrichment and the surface and pore morphologies of the membranes include the ratio between the amount of the copolymer and PSf in the mixture, the solvent quality of the coagulant for PSf, and the temperature as well as the pH of the coagulant. These factors have been systematically adjusted to optimize the hydrophilization of the PSf membrane and the resultant membranes have been characterized by water contact angle (WCA) measurements, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Optimization of the phase inversion process yielded membranes with nearly complete surface coverage by PAA, even when the graft copolymer represented only 8 wt% of the membrane's composition. The hydrophilized membranes exhibited increased water flux and even pH-responsive water flow without adversely affecting their mechanical properties. In addition, these hydrophilic membranes exhibited long-term stability. Therefore, this novel binary amphiphilic graft copolymer-based approach for membrane modification may be of commercial value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10410-10423
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry A
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jul 21
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Materials Science(all)


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