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Molecular insights into the adsorption and penetration of oil droplets on hydrophobic membrane in membrane distillation.

Water Research 2024 Februrary 18
Membrane fouling induced by oily substances significantly constrains membrane distillation performance in treating hypersaline oily wastewater. Overcoming this challenge necessitates a heightened fundamental understanding of the oil fouling phenomenon. Herein, the adsorption and penetration mechanism of oil droplets on hydrophobic membranes in membrane distillation process was investigated at the molecular level. Our results demonstrated that the adsorption and penetration of oil droplets were divided into four stages, including the free stage, contact stage, spreading stage, and equilibrium stage. Due to the extensive non-polar surface distribution of the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membrane (comprising 95.41 %), the interaction between oil molecules and PTFE was primarily governed by van der Waals interaction. Continuous oil droplet membrane fouling model revealed that the new oil droplet molecules preferred to penetrate into membrane pores where oil droplets already existed. The penetration of resin (a component of medium-quality oil droplets) onto PTFE membrane pores required the "pre-paving" of light crude oil. Finally, the ΔE quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR) models were developed to evaluate the penetration mechanism of pollutant molecules on the PTFE membrane. This research provides new insights for improving sustainable membrane distillation technologies in treating saline oily wastewater.

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