Chlorination is a common practice to prevent biofouling in municipal water supplies, wastewater reuse and seawater desalination. However, polyamide thin-film composite reverse osmosis membranes—the premier technology for desalination and clean-water production—structurally deteriorate when continually exposed to chlorine species. Here, we use layer-by-layer interfacial polymerization of 3,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid with trimesoyl chloride to fabricate a polyester thin-film composite reverse osmosis membrane that is chlorine-resistant in neutral and acidic conditions. Strong steric hindrance and an electron-withdrawing group effectively prevent direct aromatic chlorination, and residual OH groups capped with isophthaloyl dichloride preclude reaction with active chlorine. The poly(isophthalester) membrane exhibits high salt rejection (99.1 ± 0.2%) and water permeability (2.97 ± 0.13 l m−2 h−1 bar−1), even after demonstrating biofouling prevention with chlorine (50 mg l−1 of NaOCl for 15 min). We anticipate that our chlorine-resistant membrane will greatly advance reverse osmosis desalination as a sustainable technology to meet the global challenge of water supply.
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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21774058), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (BK20180072) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (NUST 30918012201, 30920021119). We also acknowledge the US National Science Foundation through the Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (EEC1449500) and the American Water Works Association Abel Wolman Fellowship awarded to R.M.D.
X.Z. and Y.Y. are inventors on patent applications (201911277839.9 and 201911270642.2) submitted by Nanjing University of Science and Technology, which cover the fabrication of polyester RO membranes. All other authors have no competing interests.
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Desalination performance, micro-scale morphology and DFT simulation results for fabricated polyester membranes.
Performance and morphology of PIP-DHBA-DHBA and SW30 membranes after chlorine exposure.
Performance recovery of fouled PIP-DHBA-DHBA and SW30 membranes after chlorine exposure.
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Yao, Y., Zhang, P., Jiang, C. et al. High performance polyester reverse osmosis desalination membrane with chlorine resistance. Nat Sustain 4, 138–146 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-00619-w
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