Cellulose acetate membranes for organic solvent nanofiltration

  • C. Iluhí Oviedo-Osornio

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN) is a membrane-based sustainable alternative to conventional separation techniques because it is non-thermal and energy-efficient. The fabrication of membranes usually includes fossil-based polymers and toxic solvents that present significant challenges. For example, its declining availability, concerns about its degradability and cross-contamination that involve toxicity risks. Nowadays, there is an increasing interest in the development of more sustainable membranes that maintain an optimum performance even in harsh solvents. The aim of my thesis research is to develop stable OSN membranes from cellulose acetate and explore the use of deacetylation reactions. The effect of the degree of acetylation on the membrane performance and stability in different organic solvents was investigated. The chemical composition and morphology were investigated using Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR), Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). It was found that cellulose acetate membranes with less than 22% acetylation present a satisfactory solvent resistance and rejection in harsh solvents, such as DMF and acetone. In the performance tests were identified two main trends: one for polar protic solvents and one for polar aprotic solvents. This was attributed to their capacity to interact with the membrane via H-bond formation. The molecular weight cutoff (MWCO) was in the range of 735–325 g mol–1 in aprotic solvents and higher than 885 g mol–1 for polar protic solvents. The results found in this research can be translated into a reduce in costs, waste generated, energy required, and time employed in the fabrication of membranes. Also, it opens potential areas in the industry as it can be implemented in harsh solvent environments.
Date of AwardNov 2022
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorGyorgy Szekely (Supervisor)


  • OSN
  • organic solvent nanofiltration
  • cellulose
  • cellulose acetate
  • sustainable
  • membranes

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