Engineering and technology
- Functionalisation of materials
- Materials processing
- Materials synthesis
Challenges in clean water availability have risen over the years, and especially third world countries are in great need of low-cost water purification techniques, such as separation membranes. By implementing functionalised organosilica nanofibrous membranes, an affinity-based separation mechanism at low energy-cost can be developed that withstands harsh environmental conditions. These membranes should have a desirable hydrophobicity to tune the affinity of different solvents towards the membrane. Additionally, their mechanical endurance should be optimised as to increase their life time. These goals are systematically addressed in this project. Organosilica nanofibrous membranes will be produced via electrospinning starting from a variety of bis-silane precursors. By implementing different functionalities, the wettability towards different solvents can be altered in view of separation applications. A thorough study on the behaviour of sol-gel systems will be conducted to create a comprehensive understanding of the influence of functionalities on the electrospinning process. Additionally, a mechanical study will reveal the link between the 3D-structure of the organosilica network and the mechanical behaviour. With this fundamental knowledge, it will be possible to develop affinity-based separation membranes for water purification. This application will even be extended towards solvent separation in view of process intensification of liquid-phase CO2 conversion to alcohols.