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CNT-enhanced membranes show promise for desalination method

By Scott Jenkins |

By immobilizing carbon nanotubes (CNTs) within polymer membrane pores, scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT; Newark, N.J.; www.njit.edu) were able to significantly improve the efficiency of desalination via a membrane distillation process. Somenath Mitra and colleagues at NJIT used a vacuum to force a dispersion of CNTs into the pore network of commercially available polymer membranes. The result is a uniform distribution of 0.5-wt.% multiwalled CNTs in the membrane. The scientists found that, compared to the membrane alone, flux doubled and salt reduction was five times higher with the CNT-infused membrane. The result could allow the use of membrane distillation for purifying brackish and seawater as a lower-energy alternative to reverse osmosis and other thermal and chemical desalination methods. In testing the CNT-infused membranes with solutions of salt water from 10 to 34,000 mg/L, the NJIT team observed “significantly higher flux and salt reductions at all feed flowrates” and mass transfer coefficients that were two to six times higher in the presence of CNTs. In a recent paper, Mitra and the other NJIT scientists proposed that the CNTs alter the water-membrane interactions such that a higher…
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