Supervisory team member: Dr Zoraida Gonzalez
Applications are invited to the School of Engineering, University of East Anglia, for a PhD in the field of graphene-based membranes for water treatment.
The increasing global water stress and consumption demand allude to the urgent need for the manufacturing of durable and efficient water purification processes. Among the existing technologies, membrane separation is the most favourable due to lower energy consumption, environmental friendliness and high purification output. Polymers and ceramics are among the readily used materials as separation membranes. However, polymeric membranes have limited resistance to temperature and corrosive environments, while inorganic membranes present limited permeability. This often prevents their wide usage in a variety of applications. These disadvantages call for the consideration of alternative materials in membrane fabrication.
Graphene is among the promising next-generation substitute owing to its 2-dimensionality and remarkable mechanical strength. However, its lack of cost-effective production scalability impedes its use as a membrane material at a commercial scale. Fortunately, its oxide form, graphene oxide (GO), is a reasonable alternative as membrane material, and it can be fabricated economically in large quantities. However, the presence of the oxygenated functional groups on the GO surface brings a fundamental limitation of poor membrane stability during the performance. GO membranes tend to swell in aqueous environments due to the accumulation of water molecules in their oxidised regions, consequently leading to reduced membrane rejection over time.
Therefore, this proposal aims at the enhancement of membrane stability and separation abilities of GO membranes relative to currently employed materials for water treatment. Different fabrication methods will be considered in a systematic manner, controlling membrane thickness, quality and performance.