Oily wastewater is a worldwide problem threatening the environment and humans. High flux and low-energy consumption separation of oil and water is urgently required but still faces great challenges. In this study, nanofibrous membranes with superhydrophilic and underwater superoleophobic surfaces were fabricated by grafting acrylic acid onto plasma-treated electrospun polystyrene/polyacrylonitrile (PS/PAN) membranes. The morphologies, chemical compositions, mechanical and surface properties of the membranes were examined in detail. The water contact angles of the PS/PAN membranes were 137.4°, 130.1°, 119.5°, 88.1° and 80.2°, respectively, which decreased to 76.5°, 47.9°, 34.4°, 0° and 0° after grafting treatment, proving that the modification improved the surface hydrophilicity of the membranes due to the introduction of hydrophilic groups. In addition, a gravity-driven filtration device was utilized to investigate the oil/water separation potential of the membranes. The results indicated that the grafted PS/PAN membranes separated the layered oil/water mixtures with permeate flux up to 57509 L m-2 h-1, while high fluxes of 1390-6460 L m-2 h-1 for the separation of different oil-in-water emulsions. Importantly, the membranes still maintained high flux and efficiency even after several cycles of separation. Therefore, the reusable membranes can be expected to be potential cost-effective materials for oil/water treatment.
Keywords: Graft; Low-temperature plasma; Nanofibers; Oil/water separation; Ultra-wetting surface.
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