2024 journal article

Adaptable intelligent filters based on nanotextured nonwoven membranes containing water-insoluble hydrogels

Journal of Applied Physics.

Source: ORCID
Added: March 1, 2024

The work demonstrates, for the first time, thermo-responsive, water-insoluble, hydrogel-based, nano-fibrous filter media comprised of copolymers of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAM) and methyl methacrylate formed by electrospinning. Moreover, a comprehensive novel physical explanation of all aspects responsible for the physical mechanisms resulting in the thermo-responsive regulation of the water flow rate and an enhanced interception of nanoparticles by such filter membranes is given. They are the wettable-non-wettable transition, pore, and fiber-size changes, as well as a diminishing filter thickness at the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of the copolymers developed here, which interplay with a significant reduction in the water viscosity with temperature. Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) hydrogel is an attractive material because of its thermo-responsive properties. Its wettability changes with water temperature. This characteristic holds great promise for the development of advanced filter media and related responsive materials. In this study, PNIPAM hydrogels were designed and transformed into filter membranes for applications in water filtration in biomedical and other related systems. These thermo-responsive filter membranes offer the potential for enhanced filtration efficiency, selectivity, and the overall system performance. Here, two different procedures were adopted to form water-insoluble thermo-responsive filter media based on PNIPAM hydrogels. The PNIPAM-based hydrogels were electrospun, resulting in the formation of thermo-responsive water-insoluble nanofiber membranes. These membranes underwent a series of comprehensive experiments to assess their performance and characteristics, including mass loss, water droplets for the wettability assessment, filtration tests, shrinkage measurements, and microscopic observations. These diverse experiments yield a full understanding of the PNIPAM-based nanofiber membranes’ properties and their potential applications.