Macroporous monoliths with pH-induced switchable wettability for recyclable oil separation and recovery.


Department of Polymer Materials and Chemical Engineering, School of Materials Science and Engineering, East China Jiaotong University, Nanchang, Jiangxi 330013, PR China. Electronic address: [Email]


OBJECTIVE : The effective separation and recovery of oils from water is important for the protections of ecosystems and the environment. Polymeric porous monoliths have been demonstrated as attractive absorbents for oil/water separation. However, the recyclability was mainly realized by squeezing, combustion, or centrifugation, which may restrict in elastic materials, destroy the adsorbates or need special apparatus. Thus it is desirable to developing monoliths with controllable oil absorption and desorption.
METHODS : A series of "smart" monoliths with pH-induced switchable wettability were fabricated by high internal phase emulsion (HIPE) polymerization and epoxide ring-opening for the incorporation of amine groups. The resultant monoliths and their wettabilities were examined using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), nitrogen adsorption/desorption and contact angle analysis, respectively. The oil separation efficiency and recyclability were evaluated.
RESULTS : The monoliths with macroporous structure can undergo switchable wettability under reversible pH stimulation. As an absorbent, the monoliths not only separated and recovered organic solvents and oils (including crude oil) from aqueous mixtures through a reversible and recyclable absorption and desorption process upon alternating the pH between 7.0 and 1.0, but also continuously expulsed oils from water surfaces in a continuous manner with the aid of external driving pressures. Moreover, the monoliths also allowed the effective separation of surfactant-free and surfactant-stabilized oil-in-water emulsions with high separation efficiency.


Emulsions separation,Macroporous monoliths,Oil/water separation,Smart absorbent,pH-switchable wettability,