Reactive nanostructured membranes for water purification

Scott R. Lewis, Saurav Datta, Minghui Gui, Eric L. Coker, Frank E. Huggins, Sylvia Daunert, Leonidas Bachas, Dibakar Bhattacharyya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Many current treatments for the reclamation of contaminated water sources are chemical-intensive, energy-intensive, and/or require posttreatment due to unwanted by-product formation. We demonstrate that through the integration of nanostructured materials, enzymatic catalysis, and iron-catalyzed free radical reactions within pore-functionalized synthetic membrane platforms, we are able to conduct environmentally important oxidative reactions for toxic organic degradation and detoxification from water without the addition of expensive or harmful chemicals. In contrast to conventional, passive membrane technologies, our approach utilizes two independently controlled, nanostructured membranes in a stacked configuration for the generation of the necessary oxidants. These include biocatalytic and organic/inorganic (polymer/iron) nanocomposite membranes. The bioactive (top) membrane contains an electrostatically immobilized enzyme for the catalytic production of one of the main reactants, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), fromglucose. The bottom membrane contains either immobilized iron ions or ferrihydrite/iron oxide nanoparticles for the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to form powerful free radical oxidants. By permeating (at low pressure) a solution containing a model organic contaminant, such as trichlorophenol, with glucose in oxygen-saturated water through the membrane stack, significant contaminant degradation was realized. To illustrate the effectiveness of this membrane platform in real-world applications, membrane-immobilized ferrihydrite/iron oxide nanoparticles were reacted with hydrogen peroxide to form free radicals for the degradation of a chlorinated organic contaminant in actual groundwater. Although we establish the development of these nanostructured materials for environmental applications, the practical and methodological advances demonstrated here permit the extension of their use to applications including disinfection and/or virus inactivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8577-8582
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 24 2011


  • Enzyme catalysis
  • Functionalized membranes
  • Pollutant microfiltration
  • Responsive materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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