Exploring and Exploiting the Effect of Solvent Treatment in Membrane Separations

Mayamin Razali, Christos Didaskalou, Jeong F. Kim, Masoud Babaei, Enrico Drioli, Young Moo Lee, Gyorgy Szekely*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


It is well-known that solvent treatment and preconditioning play an important role in rejection and flux performance of membranes due to solvent-induced swelling and solvent adsorption. Investigations into the effect of solvent treatment are scarce and application specific, and were limited to a few solvents only. This study reveals the trend in solvent treatment based on solvent polarity in a systematic investigation with the aim to harness such effect for intensification of membrane processes. Nine solvents with polarity indices ranging from 0.1 to 5.8 (hexane to acetonitrile) were used as treatment and process solvents on commercial Borsig GMT-oNF-2, Evonik Duramem 300, and emerging tailor-made polybenzimidazole membranes. TGA-GCMS, HS-GC-FID, and NMR techniques were employed to better understand the effect of solvent treatment on the polymer matrix of membranes. In this work, apart from the solvent treatment's direct effect on the membrane performance, a subsequent indirect effect on the ultimate separation process was observed. Consequently, a pharmaceutical case study employing chlorhexidine disinfectant and antiseptic was used to demonstrate the effect of solvent treatment on the nanofiltration-based purification. It is shown that treatment of polybenzimidazole membranes with acetone resulted in a 25% increase in product recovery at 99% impurity removal. The cost of the process intensification is negligible in terms of solvent consumption, mass intensity, and processing time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11279-11289
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 29 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • membrane conditioning
  • membrane preconditioning
  • nanofiltration
  • pharmaceuticals
  • process intensification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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