Versatile and High-Throughput Polyelectrolyte Complex Membranes via Phase Inversion

Kazi Sadman, David E. Delgado, Yechan Won, Qifeng Wang, Kimberly A. Gray, Kenneth R. Shull*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


High-flux filtration membranes constructed through scalable and sustainable methods are desirable for energy-efficient separations. Often, these criteria are difficult to be reconciled with one another. Polymeric membranes can provide high flux but frequently involve organic solvents in processing steps. Solubility of many polymeric membranes in organic media also restricts their implementation in solvent filtration. In the present work, we report a simple and high-throughput aqueous processing approach for polyelectrolyte complex (PEC) membranes with controllable porosity and stability in various aqueous and organic environments. PECs are materials composed of oppositely charged polymer chains that can form solids in aqueous environments, yet which can be dissolved in very specific salt solutions capable of breaking the interpolymer ion pairs. By exploiting the salt-induced dissolution and subsequent reformation of the complex, nano- to microporous films are rapidly synthesized which resemble membranes obtained through conventional solvent-phase inversion techniques. PECs remain stable in organic solvents because of the low dielectric constant of the environment, which enhances electrostatic interactions, making them suitable for a wide range of water and solvent filtration applications. Here, we elucidate how the polymer-phase behavior can be manipulated to exercise morphological control, test membrane performance for water and solvent filtration, and quantify the mechanical stability of PECs in relevant conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16018-16026
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number17
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • High-flux filtration membranes
  • coacervate
  • polyelectrolyte complex
  • quartz crystal microbalance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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