Our lab has a close collaboration with Prof. Eric Hoek at the Civil Engineering Department on developing water purification membranes. The early studies were emphasized on polyaniline-based ultrafiltration membranes, where the as-cast membranes were rapidly immersed in a water bath, underwent a phase inversion in order to create channels. In order to improve the antifouling ability of membranes, various strategies were applied, such as adding in hydrophilic materials, molecular functionalization, the introduction of gelation inhibitors, surface modification, etc.
Recently, our group along with the spin-off startup Hydrophilix developed a technique, Thin-Film Liftoff (T-FLO). In contrast to traditional membrane fabrication process, T-FLO technique starts with the active layer and then pour epoxy solutions onto the active layer in order to form a porous supporting layer. The strong molecular interactions between the active layer and the supporting layer are sufficient to perform the delamination of the whole membrane from the substrate. With this technique, we are able to perform ultrapermeable organic solvent nanofiltration made by a rational choice of monomers for the support layer, and robust nanostructured graphene oxide composite membranes.