Synthesis, characterization & application of visible light responsive nitrogen doped tio2 and copolymer-grafted asymmetric membranes with ozonolysis for water treatment

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University of Fort Hare


The use of titanium dioxide for the photo-catalytic removal of organic, inorganic, and microbial pollutants from natural water and wastewater has been considered a very promising technique. The aim of this study was to prepare nitrogen doped titanium dioxide, immobilize it on asymmetric polymeric membranes of poly (methacrylic acid) grafted onto poly (vinylidene difluoride) (PVDF) blended with poly (acrylonitrile) (PAN), and evaluate the photo-catalytic, antimicrobial, and antifouling properties of the membranes. Nitrogen doped titanium dioxide (N-TiO2) nano-particles were prepared by a low temperature sol gel synthesis technique. The modification of TiO2 with nitrogen allows photo-sensitization of the photo-catalyst towards visible light utilization. The N-TiO2 nano-particles were characterized by fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), scanning x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (SXPS), X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD), diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS), Brunauer Emmett Teller (BET) surface area analysis, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The characterizations revealed the presence of the expected functional groups and confirmed successful doping and that the product was visible light responsive. Novel poly (methacrylic acid) grafted onto poly (vinylidene difluoride)/ poly (acrylonitrile) (PMAA-g-PVDF/ PAN) asymmetric membranes were prepared by the dry-wet phase inversion technique. The poly (methacrylic acid) (PMAA) side chains where grafted onto an activated PVDF backbone by reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. The photo-catalytic membranes were generated by blending N-TiO2 with the polymer solution before casting the membranes. The membranes were characterized by FT-IR, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA). FT-IR and NMR analyses confirmed successful grafting of MAA chains onto PVDF while SEM confirmed the successful preparation of membranes with asymmetric structure. The efficacy of the photo-catalytic asymmetric membranes was evaluated on the removal of herbicides from synthetic water. Bentazon was easily degraded while atrazine and paraquat were recalcitrant and proved difficult to degrade. The best results were observed with 3 % N-TiO2-PMAA-g-PVDF/ PAN asymmetric membranes on the photo-degradation of bentazon, atrazine and paraquat in water. Significant enhancement in the photo-degradation of the three herbicides was observed when photo-catalytic degradation was coupled with ozonation. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) analysis confirmed the presence of a degradation by-product during the photo-catalytic degradation of bentazon. The photo-catalytic membranes were also evaluated on the photo-catalytic reduction of heavy metals Pb2+ and Fe3+ in water, and the best results were obtained using 1 % N-TiO2-PMAA-g-PVDF/ PAN and 1 % N-TiO2-PAN asymmetric membranes. All prepared photo-catalytic membranes where capable of completely inactivating E. coli ATCC 8739 within 120 minutes of exposure and inactivation rate increased with increasing N-TiO2 photo-catalyst loading. However, there was an indication from the results obtained that N-TiO2 supported on PMAA-g-PVDF/ PAN showed a higher inactivation rate of E. coli ATCC 8739 compared to N-TiO2-PAN and N-TiO2-PVDF membranes. The 1 % N-TiO2-PMAA-g-PVDF/ PAN membranes gave the highest pure water flux (421.83 L/m2h). This increase (PVDF = 30.50 L/m2h, PAN = 73.85 L/m2h) in pure water flux is owed to PMAA grafting as well as addition of N-TiO2. These modifications resulted in an increased membrane surface hydrophilicity, which promoted permeation of pure water through the membrane structure. A high bovine serum albumin (BSA) rejection (76.5 %) was noted and can be attributed to steric hindrance brought about by PMAA side chains which prevented the bulky BSA molecules from attaching to the membrane surface for PMAA-g-PVDF/ PAN membranes. However, the supporting porous sub-layer of an asymmetric membrane seemed to play a very important role in the overall permeability of a membrane. PVDF membranes are highly hydrophobic hence they gave a very low pure water flux.