Chemical Engineering Journal, Vol.360, 1437-1446, 2019
Photocatalytic nanofiber-coated alumina hollow fiber membranes for highly efficient oilfield produced water treatment
Cost-effective purification technology of oilfield produced water (OPW) is becoming a global challenge for future petroleum exploration and production industry. Energy-efficient operation of membrane separation is potentially promising. However, severe fouling problem of oil droplets demands new robust and fouling-resistant membranes with high permeability and rejection efficiency. Here, we propose a photocatalytic nanofiber-coated inorganic hollow fiber membrane suitable for OPW treatment. The membrane was fabricated by coating polyacrylonitrile (PAN) nanofiber incorporated with graphitic carbon nitride (GCN) photocatalyst on an alumina (Al2O3) hollow fiber membrane. While the highly porous coating made of smooth hydrophilic nanofibers facilitated water permeation, the coating effectively captured oil droplets in its opening, resulting in a better rejection efficiency of oil contaminants. Its sparse mesh morphology prevented oil contaminants to form dense fouling film on the membrane surface and maintained high permeate flux even after 180 min filtration. The best permeate flux of 640 L.m(-2).h(-1) and oil rejection percentage of 99% were recorded for 180 min crossflow filtration of OPW at 2 bar along with the highest pure water flux of 816 L.m(-2).h(-1). The photocatalytic activity of GCN enabled the coating to degrade the captured oil contaminants under UV irradiation, demonstrating permeate flux of 577 L.m(-2).h(-1) and oil rejection of 97% after three cycles of 180 min filtration. The excellent fouling resistance and cleaning performances of the membrane are considerably beneficial for a long-term repeated filtration operation. This work will motivate researchers to develop nanofiber-coated hollow fiber membranes for future membrane separation technology.