One-Component Nanocomposite Membranes from Polymer Grafted Cellulose Nanocrystals

Harrison R. Paul, Matthew V. Tirrell, Stuart J. Rowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Membrane filtration is an important industrial purification process used to access clean and potable water. The fabrication of the membranes used in these purification applications often involves expensive and energy-intensive processes that have a large negative impact on the environment. Sustainable alternatives with a high water flux and strong rejection performance are needed to purify water. The focus of this work is to investigate the use of polymer-grafted cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) in membrane applications. The impact of the polymer grafting density and polymer conformation was investigated and it is shown that by increasing the grafting density of PEG such that it adopts a semidilute polymer brush conformation, the water flux through the membranes could be increased from 3.5 to 2900 L h-1 m-2 for CNC membranes without and with grafted PEG, respectively. These membranes also exhibited rejection performances with molecular weight cutoffs between 62 and 100 kDa for all polymer-grafted samples, consistent with the ultrafiltration regime. Thus, the design of these one-component composite materials can enhance the water permeability of ultrafiltration membranes while maintaining effective selectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4210-4219
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Nano Materials
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 23 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 American Chemical Society


  • cellulose nanocrystals
  • membrane filtration
  • polymer brush
  • polymer grafted nanoparticles
  • water transport


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