Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Yifu Ding

Second Advisor

John Pellegrino

Third Advisor

Alan Greenberg

Fourth Advisor

Wei Tan

Fifth Advisor

Lauren Greenlee


Polymeric membrane based separation technologies are crucial for addressing the global issues such as water purification. However, continuous operations of these processes are often hindered by fouling which increases mass transport resistance of the membrane to permeation and thus the energy cost, and eventually replacement of the membrane in the system. In comparison to other anti-fouling strategies, the use of controlled surface topography to mitigate fouling has not been realized mainly due to the lack of methods to create targeted topography on the porous membrane surface.

This thesis aims to develop a new methodology to create surface-patterned polymeric separation membrane to improve their anti-fouling characteristics during filtration. First, successful fabrication of sub-micron surface patterns directly on a commercial ultrafiltration (UF) membrane surface using nanoimprint lithographic (NIL) technique was demonstrated. Comprehensive filtration studies revealed that the presence of these sub-micron surface patterns mitigates not only the onset of colloidal particle deposition, but also lowers the rate of growth of cake layer after initial deposition, in comparison with un-patterned membranes. The anti-fouling effects were also observed for model protein solutions. Staged filtration experiments, with backwash cleaning, revealed that the permeate flux of the patterned membrane after protein fouling was considerably higher than that of the pristine or un-patterned membrane.

In addition to the surface-patterning of UF membranes, successful fabrication of a surface-patterned thin film composite (TFC) membrane was shown for the first time. A two-step fabrication process was carried out by (1) nanoimprinting a polyethersulfone (PES) support using NIL, and (2) forming a thin dense film atop the PES support via interfacial polymerization (IP). Fouling experiments suggest that the surface patterns alter the hydrodynamics at the membrane-feed interface, which is effective in decreasing fouling in dead end filtration system.

In summary, this thesis represents the first ever fabrication of functional patterned polymeric separation membrane and systematic investigation of the influence of submicron surface patterns on pressure-driven liquid membrane separations. The results presented here will enable an effective non-chemical surface modification anti-fouling strategy, which can be directly added onto current commercial separation membrane manufacturing route.