Highly efficient size-sieving-based removal of arsenic(III) via defect-free interfacially-polymerized polyamide thin-film composite membranes

Murtadha A. Aljubran, Zain Ali, Yingge Wang, Emmanuel Alonso, Tiara Puspasari, Klimentsi Cherviakouski, Ingo Pinnau*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Serious health problems have been linked to the consumption and exposure of arsenic-contaminated groundwater. In comparison to As(V), As(III) is smaller and predominantly present in its neutral form in groundwater, which hinders its efficient removal by conventional nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes. In this study, the removal of As(III) was investigated at different pH conditions using three defect-free interfacially polymerized thin-film composite (TFC) membranes made by an optimized in-house developed interfacial polymerization process (KRO). The membranes were fabricated from aromatic para-phenylenediamine (PPD) or meta-phenylenediamine (MPD) and cycloaliphatic piperazine (PIP) by reaction with trimesoyl chloride (TMC). The PPD-KRO, MPD-KRO, and PIP-KRO polyamide membranes were tested with a feed containing 5 ± 1 mg L−1 (ppm) As(III). Two commercial TFC membranes, a seawater (Sepro RO4) and a nanofiltration (DOW NF270) membrane, were also evaluated for comparison. At natural conditions (pH 6–8), the defect-free fully aromatic TFC membranes demonstrated unprecedented size-sieving performance for As(III) removal with a rejection of ∼99.5 and > 99.8% for PPD-KRO and MPD-KRO, respectively, in comparison to ∼95% for the commercial Sepro RO4 seawater membrane tested under the same conditions. In contrast, As(III) rejection of semi-aromatic piperazine-based TFCs, PIP-KRO and NF270, showed a strong dependence on the charge-exclusion mechanism with maximum As(III) rejections of 69.5 and 46.3% at pH 10, respectively. Most notably, we demonstrated that the MPD-KRO membrane achieved an As(III) concentration ∼5 μg L−1 in the permeate (less than the WHO permissible arsenic standard level of 10 μg L−1), whereas PPD-KRO achieved a slightly higher value of ∼14 μg L−1. Our results are very promising considering the arsenic standard level in highly As(III) contaminated groundwater in Bangladesh and India is set at 50 μg L−1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120477
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - Jun 15 2022


  • Arsenic ground water contamination
  • Defect-free polyamide thin-film composite membrane
  • Interfacial polymerization
  • Nanofiltration
  • Reverse osmosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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