Transport of small and neutral solutes through reverse osmosis membranes: Role of skin layer conformation of the polyamide film

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Membrane Science, 2018, 554 pp. 301 - 308
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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. The polyamide skin layer of reverse osmosis (RO) membranes was characterised using advanced and complementary analytical techniques to investigate the mechanisms underlying the permeation of contaminants of emerging concern in potable water reuse – N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-nitrosomethylethylamine (NMEA). This study used five RO membrane samples with similar membrane properties. The five RO membrane samples spanned over a large range of water permeance (0.9–5.8 L/m2 h bar) as well as permeation of NDMA (9–66%) and NMEA (3–29%). Despite these differences among the five RO membranes, characterisations of the skin layer using positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy and field emission scanning electron microscopy revealed almost no variation in their free-volume hole-radius (0.270–0.275 nm), effective surface area (198–212%) and thickness (30–35 nm) of the skin layer. The results suggest that there could be other RO skin layer properties, such as the interconnectivity of the protuberances within the polyamide skin layer additional to the free-volume hole-size and thickness of the skin layer, which can also govern water and solute permeation.
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