Enhanced permselective separation of per-fluorooctanoic acid in graphene oxide membranes by a simple PEI modification

Sally El Meragawi, Abozar Akbari, Sebastian Hernandez, Meysam Sharifzadeh Mirshekarloo, Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Akshat Tanksale, Mainak Majumder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Perfluoroalkyl compounds of various molecular weights have emerged as a class of persistent contaminants with profound negative impact on human health and the environment. The selectivity and permeance of Graphene Oxide (GO) and amine surface functionalised GO nanofiltration membranes were assessed for the removal of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA 400 Da) in concentration ranges relevant to availability in wastewater. GO nanofiltration membranes demonstrated a reasonable efficiency of 74.3% at 50 ppm of PFOA and a water permeance of 10 ± 2.1 L m-2 h-1 bar-1. By functionalising the top surface with polyethyleneimine (PEI), the GO membrane underwent reduction and cross-linking reactions. The modified membranes demonstrated improved mechanical stability and an enhanced retention of 96.5% at 50 ppm PFOA and a permeance of 15.9 ± 1.3 L m-2 h-1 bar-1. The electron rich PEI deoxygenates GO leading to a smaller interlayer spacing, but also increases the surface hydrophilicity-the combination of both these properties leads to increased PFOA retention by steric hindrance and enhanced water permeation. As steric hindrance effects were the dominant mechanism of retention, the GO-PEI membranes operated more effectively (retention >90%) in a much wider range of concentrations (100 ppb to 100 ppm), compared to the GO membrane. Our research demonstrates that strategic surface-modification techniques can tailor the effectiveness of GO-based loose nanofiltration membranes for the retention of emerging contaminants while maintaining lower osmotic pressure effects through salt retention minimisation. This journal is

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24800-24811
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry A
Issue number46
StatePublished - Dec 14 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work was partially supported by the ARC Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation (IH 150100003) and the Co-operative Research Centre (Projects) on power efficient wastewater technology using graphene oxide technology. Partial support (Bhattacharyya) by the NIH-NIEHS-SRC (Award number: P42ES007380) is also acknowledged. The authors gratefully acknowledge Peter Voigt from Nematiq Pty Ltd for insightful discussions on the practical aspects of PFOA removal and Philip Holt and Scott Blundell from the School of Chemistry, Monash University for access to and expertise in HPLC and LCMS.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Society of Chemistry.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Materials Science (all)


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