Spraying of Ultrathin Isoporous Block Copolymer Membranes—A Story about Challenges and Limitations


Isoporous membranes can be prepared by a combination of self-assembly of amphiphilic block copolymers and the non-solvent induced phase separation process. As the general doctor-blade technique suffers from high consumption of expensive block copolymer, other methods to reduce its concentration in the casting solution are sought after. Decreasing the block copolymer concentration during membrane casting and applying the block copolymer solution on a support membrane to obtain ultrathin isoporous membrane layers with e.g., spraying techniques, can be an answer. In this work we focused on the question if upscaling of thin block copolymer membranes produced by spraying techniques is feasible. To upscale the spray coating process, three different approaches were pursued, namely air-brush, 1-fluid nozzles and 2-fluid nozzles as generally used in the coating industry. The different spraying systems were implemented successfully in a membrane casting machine. Thinking about future development of isoporous block copolymer membranes in application it was significant that a continuous preparation process can be realised combining spraying of thin layers and immersion of the thin block copolymer layers in water to ensure phase-separation. The system was tested using a solution of polystyrene-block-poly(4-vinylpyridine) diblock copolymer. A detailed examination of the spray pattern and its homogeneity was carried out. The limitations of this method are discussed.
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