Facile performance enhancement of reverse osmosis membranes via solvent activation with benzyl alcohol

Min Gyu Shin, Sang Hee Park, Soon Jin Kwon, Hyo Eun Kwon, Jong Bae Park, Jung Hyun Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


We present a facile method to enhance separation performance of polyamide (PA) reverse osmosis (RO) membranes via solvent activation with a new type of organic solvent, benzyl alcohol (BA). Activation with BA remarkably improved water permeance (up to ∼140% increase) while maintaining high NaCl rejection (∼99.6%) of the pristine RO membrane, thereby overcoming the flux-rejection trade-off limitation. Thus, the water permeance and permselectivity of the BA-activated RO membrane significantly exceeded those of commercial RO membranes. This significant performance enhancement was attributed to the appropriate solvency power of BA (determined based on Hansen solubility parameters), which led to the balanced structural deformation of the PA selective layer; BA activation produced a less dense and highly permeable PA structure by greatly swelling PA, while simultaneously healing loosened sites via structural compaction of the PA network with a sufficiently reduced modulus. Based on the activation results with various organic solvents ranging from mild to strong solvents, we propose a more reliable predictor of the solvent activation effect. Our strategy is a simple, effective and commercially viable method to enhance RO membrane performance. Additionally, our study highlights on the underlying solvent activating mechanism of PA RO membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-229
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 15


  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Interfacial polymerization
  • Polyamide thin film composite membrane
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Solvent activation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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