AbstractDespite promising filtration abilities, low mechanical properties of extraordinary porous electrospun nanofibrous membranes could be a major challenge in their industrial development. In addition, such kind of membranes are usually hydrophobic and non-wettable. To reinforce an electrospun nanofibrous membrane made of polyethersulfone (PES) mechanically and chemically (to improve wettability), zirconia nanoparticles as a novel nanofiller in membrane technology were added to the nanofibers.
The compressive and tensile results obtained through nanoindentation and tensile tests, respectively, implied an optimum mechanical properties after incorporation of zirconia nanoparticles. Especially compaction resistance of the electrospun nanofibrous membranes improved significantly as long as no agglomeration of the nanoparticles occurred and the electrospun nanocomposite membranes showed a higher tensile properties without any brittleness i.e. a high ductility. Noteworthy, for the first time the compaction level was quantified through a nanoindentation test. In addition to obtaining a desired mechanical performance, the hydrophobicity declined. Combination of promising properties of optimum mechanical and surface chemical properties led to a considerably high water permeability also retention efficiency of the nanocomposite PES nanofibrous membranes. Such finding implies a longer life span and lower energy consumption for a water filtration process.