Solvent-Resistant and Thermally Stable Polymeric Membranes for Liquid Separations

  • Sandra L Aristizábal

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Membrane technology has great potential to complement traditional energy-intensive molecular separation processes such as distillation, with the advantage of low footprint generation. However, this would only be achieved with the development of better membranes able to operate in challenging conditions, including combinations of organic solvents, high temperatures, extreme pHs, and oxidative environments. This dissertation aims to use high-performance polymeric materials that can withstand temperatures of 120 °C in polar aprotic solvents like N,N-dimethylformamide as separation membranes, using different crosslinking strategies and alternative routes for commercially available material processing. The thesis will be divided into two main approaches. The first approach will start from soluble polyimides as precursors, with designed functionalities that allow post-membrane modifications, such as chemical crosslinking, thermal crosslinking, and thermal rearrangement to enhance the material's chemical resistance. The focus will be on the polyimide synthesis by an alternative one-step room-temperature polyhydroxyalkylation reaction. The chemical and thermal crosslinking take place without involving the imide bond, by incorporating a highly tunable functional group (isatin) in the synthesis of the materials. Propargyl as a pendant group will be used for the thermal crosslinking, and hydroxyl group for the thermal rearrangement. In all cases, the obtained membranes were stable in common organic solvents at 120 °C. The second approach will start from intrinsically solvent-resistant and commercially available poly(aryl ether ketone)s, turned into membranes by a closed-loop modification-regeneration strategy, to address long-term separations in organic solvents at high temperatures. We present for the first time porous poly(aryl ether ketone) flat-sheet and hollow fiber membranes prepared without the use of strong acids or high temperatures. Two methodologies are proposed. The developed strategies shall contribute toward avoiding the regular consumption of new materials and waste generation since the polymer used does not require crosslinking for its stability under organic solvents.
Date of AwardOct 2022
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorSuzana Nunes (Supervisor)


  • membrane
  • separation
  • nanofiltration
  • organic solvent nanofiltration
  • high-performance
  • polyimide
  • poly(ether ether ketone)
  • PEEK
  • poly(ether ketone ketone)
  • PEKK
  • chemical modification

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