Efficient oil/saltwater separation using a highly permeable and fouling-resistant all-inorganic nanocomposite membrane

Rand Elshorafa, Jayaprakash Saththasivam, Zhaoyang Liu, Said Ahzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although it is still a great challenge, developing oil-/water-separating membranes that combine the advantages of high separation efficiency, salty environments tolerance, and fouling resistance are highly demanded for marine oil spill cleanups and oil-/gas-produced water treatment. Here, we report a new type of all-inorganic nanostructured membrane, which is composed of titanate nanofibers and SiO2 particulate gel for efficient and stable oil/saltwater separation. The nanoporous and interconnected network structure constructed with titanate nanofibers is the key to ensure the high separation efficiency and high water flux of the new membrane. The SiO2 gel is used as a binder to offer mechanical flexibility and integrity for this type of all-inorganic membrane. The new membrane displays a high oil/water separation efficiency of above 99.5% with oil content in treated effluent lower than US environmental discharge standards (42 ppm) and high water permeation flux of 1600 LMH/bar under low operation pressure. The new membrane also demonstrates outstanding durability in the environment of different salinities, and it has a good resistance for oil fouling due to its excellent underwater superoleophobicity with an oil contact angle above 150 °. Most importantly, the underwater superoleophobic properties can be well maintained after being repeatedly reused. The excellent environmental durability, oil-fouling resistance, high separation efficiency, and facile fabrication process for this new type of membrane render great potential for industrial application in treating produced water.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020



  • Fouling resistance
  • Membrane separation
  • Nanomaterials
  • Oily wastewater
  • Superoleophobic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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