Unprecedented Scaling/Fouling Resistance of Omniphobic Polyvinylidene Fluoride Membrane with Silica Nanoparticle Coated Micropillars in Direct Contact Membrane Distillation

Zechun Xiao, Hong Guo, Hailong He, Yongjie Liu, Xuemei Li, Yue-Biao Zhang, Huabing Yin, Alexey V. Volkov, Tao He*
J. Membr. Sci. 2020599, 117819
Recent development of omniphobic membranes shows promise in scaling/fouling mitigation in membrane distillation (MD), however, the fundamental understanding is still under dispute. In this paper, we report a novel omniphobic micropillared membrane coated by silica nanoparticles (SiNPs) (SiNPs-MP-PVDF) with dual-scale roughness prepared by a micromolding phase separation (μPS) and electrostatic attraction. This membrane was used as a model for analysis of scaling behavior by calcium sulfate (CaSO4) scaling and fouling behavior by protein casein in comparison with commercial (C-PVDF) and micropillared (MP-PVDF) membranes. Unprecedented scaling/fouling resistance to CaSO4 and casein was observed in direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) for SiNPs-MP-PVDF membrane. Similar scaling and fouling occurred for commercial PVDF and micropillared PVDF membranes. The observation corresponds well to the wetting state of all membranes as SiNPs-MP-PVDF shows suspended wetting, but MP-PVDF shows pinned wetting. From a hydrodynamic view, the suspended wetting attributes a slippery surface which reduces the direct contact of foulants to solid membrane part and leads to significantly reduced fouling and scaling. However, a pinned (or metastable) wetting state leads to a stagnant interfacial layer that is prone to severe fouling and scaling. This work highlights that both scaling and fouling resistance are indeed of suspended wetting state and slippage origin.