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Seminar | Applied Materials

Tailoring the Interfacial Interactions of Porous Polymer Membranes to Accelerate Atomic Layer Deposition: the Latent Path to Antifouling Membranes

AMD Seminar

Abstract: Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a powerful strategy to engineer hybrid organic-inorganic membranes with emergent functionalities. The combination of atomic-level thickness control, wide materials palette, and unprecedented conformality allow the physiochemical properties (e.g., hydrophilicity) of mesoporous polymer membranes to be precisely tuned. The nucleation of ALD materials growth on polymer surfaces relies on chemical interactions between the ALD metalorganic precursor and functional groups in the polymer structure and these interactions dictate the number of ALD cycles required to achieve a continuous coating. Strategies to enhance these interactions could enable desirable properties such as anti-fouling behavior to be imparted on inert polymer surfaces that lack the necessary functional groups for ALD nucleation. 

In this study, we demonstrate that the reactivity of polyacrylonitrile (PAN) membranes towards ALD metal oxide (MO) precursors with Lewis acid characteristics is enhanced by introducing Lewis base functional groups (amidoxime: Am) on the PAN backbone. The resulting Lewis acid-base interactions accelerates the MO nucleation in Am-PAN and reduce the number of deposition cycles required to achieve hydrophilicity compared to the untreated PAN membrane. Unveiling the reaction mechanism, the in-situ FTIR intensity changes established enhanced interaction dynamics between the ALD MO precursors and the Am-PAN membrane, unlike the PAN membrane. For similar MO cycles, through both spectroscopic and thermogravimetric analysis, we observe enhanced MO loading in the Am-PAN membrane compared to the PAN membrane. Here we have verified that strong Lewis acid-base interactions led to enhanced loading for a range of ALD MO materials including Al2O3, TiO2, SnO2, and ZnO. Most importantly, the Al2O3-Am-PAN hybrid membrane showed 23.3% higher antifouling capability compared to the pristine PAN membrane. Our approach expands the scope of design options for fouling-resistant porous hybrid inorganic-organic membranes and may reduce manufacturing costs of water treatment membranes.