University of Kentucky
Phosphorene is two-dimensional material exfoliated from bulk phosphorus and it possesses a band gap. Specifically, relevant to the field of membrane science, the band gap of phosphorene provides it with potential photocatalytic properties, which could be explored in making reactive membranes that can self-clean. The goal of this study was to develop an innovative and robust membrane able to control and reverse fouling with minimal changes in membrane performance. To this end, for the first time, membranes have been embedded with phosphorene. Membrane modification was verified by the presence of phosphorus on membranes, along with changes in surface charge, average pore size and hydrophobicity. After modification, phosphorene-modified membranes were used to filter methylene blue (MB) under intermittent ultraviolet light irradiation. Phosphorene-modified and unmodified membranes displayed similar rejection of MB; however, after reverse-flow filtration was performed to mimic pure water cleaning, the average recovered flux of phosphorene-modified membranes was four times higher than that of unmodified membranes. Furthermore, coverage of MB on phosphorene membranes after reverse-flow filtration was four times lower than that of unmodified membranes, which supports the hypothesis that phosphorene membranes operated under intermittent ultraviolet irradiation can become self-cleaning.