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Single and binary protein electroultrafiltration using poly(vinyl-alcohol)-carbon nanotube (PVA-CNT) composite membranes


Electrically conductive composite ultrafiltration membranes composed of carbon nanotubes have exhibited efficient fouling inhibition in wastewater treatment applications. In the current study, poly(vinyl-alcohol)-carbon nanotube membranes were applied to fed batch crossflow electroultrafiltration of dilute (0.1 g/L of each species) single and binary protein solutions of α-lactalbumin and hen egg-white lysozyme at pH 7.4, 4 mM ionic strength, and 1 psi. Electroultrafiltration using the poly(vinyl-alcohol)-carbon nanotube composite membranes yielded temporary enhancements in sieving for single protein filtration and in selectivity for binary protein separation compared to ultrafiltration using the unmodified PS-35 membranes. Assessment of membrane fouling based on permeate flux, zeta potential measurements, and scanning electron microscopy visualization of the conditioned membranes indicated significant resulting protein adsorption and aggregation which limited the duration of improvement during electroultrafiltration with an applied cathodic potential of -4.6 V (vs. Ag/AgCl). These results imply that appropriate optimization of electroultrafiltration using carbon nanotube-deposited polymeric membranes may provide substantial short-term improvements in binary protein separations.

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