Original Article

Citation: NPG Asia Materials (2016) 8, e258; doi:10.1038/am.2016.27
Published online 1 April 2016

Nanostructured carbon-based membranes: nitrogen doping effects on reverse osmosis performance
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Josue Ortiz-Medina1, Hiroki Kitano1,2, Aaron Morelos-Gomez1, Zhipeng Wang3, Takumi Araki1,4, Cheon-Soo Kang3, Takuya Hayashi1,3, Kenji Takeuchi1,3, Takeyuki Kawaguchi3, Akihiko Tanioka3, Rodolfo Cruz-Silva1, Mauricio Terrones3,5 and Morinobu Endo1,3

  1. 1Global Aqua Innovation Center, Shinshu University, Nagano, Japan
  2. 2Kitagawa Industries Co., Kasugai City, Aichi, Japan
  3. 3Institute of Carbon Science and Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Shinshu University, Nagano, Japan
  4. 4Division of Computational Science and Technology, Research Organization for Information Science and Technology, Tokyo, Japan
  5. 5Department of Physics, Department of Chemistry, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, & Center for 2-Dimensional and Layered Materials. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

Correspondence: Professor M Endo, Global Aqua Innovation Center, Institute of Carbon Science and Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Shinshu University, 4-17-1 Wakasato, Nagano 380-8553, Japan. E-mail: endo@endomoribu.shinshu-u.ac.jp

Received 17 October 2015; Revised 12 January 2016; Accepted 31 January 2016

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Abstract

Ultrathin, flexible and highly water-permeable nanostructured carbon (NC)-based membranes are formed on porous polymer supports by plasma high-power impulse magnetron sputtering in order to fabricate carbon-based membranes for water desalination. The carbon membranes are produced at room temperature using mixtures of argon (Ar), nitrogen (N2) and methane (CH4) as precursors, and this procedure constitutes a simple solvent-free, waste-free scalable process. Structural characterization, molecular simulation, water permeation and salt rejection assessments are used to correlate the performance and membrane structure. Molecular simulations indicate that nitrogen doping on the carbon-based membranes drastically modifies the pore distribution and avoids the formation of clustered regions of high-density carbons. The optimum NC-based membrane has up to 96% salt rejection rate for 0.2wt% NaCl saline water, with high water permeability ca. 25lm−2h−1MPa−1. The NC-based membranes as active layers for desalination membranes exhibit attractive characteristics which render them a potential alternative to current polymeric technology used in reverse osmosis processes.

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