Hang, Gang;Liu, Jiang Tao;Lu, Kang Jia;Chung, Tai-Shung;
A facile and versatile approach was demonstrated for the fabrication of low-fouling pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) membranes for osmotic power generation from highly polluted wastewater. A water-soluble zwitterionic random copolymer with superior hydrophilicity and unique chemistry was molecularly designed and synthesized via a single-step free-radical polymerization between 2-methacryloyloxyethyl phosphorylcholine (MPC) and 2-aminoethyl methacrylate hydrochloride (AEMA). The P[MPC-co-AEMA] copolymer was then chemically grafted onto the surface of PES/Torlon hollow fibers via amino groups coupling of poly(AEMA) with the polyimide structures of Torlon, leaving the zwitterions of poly(MPC) in the feed solution. Because of the outstanding hydrophilicity, unique cationic and anionic groups, and electrical neutrality of the zwitterionic brush, the newly developed membrane showed great resistances to both inorganic scaling and organic fouling in PRO operations. When using a real wastewater brine comprising multifoulants as the feed, the P[MPC-co-AEMA] modified membrane exhibits a much lower flux decline of 37% at Delta P = 0 bar after 24-h tests and a smaller power density decrease of 28% at Delta P = 15 bar within 12-h tests, compared to 61% and 42% respectively for the unmodified one. In addition to the low fouling tendency, the modified membrane shows outstanding performance stability and fouling reversibility, where the flux is almost fully recovered by physical backwash of water at IS bar for 0.5 h. This study provides valuable insights and strategies for the design and fabrication of effective antifouling materials and membranes for PRO osmotic power generation.