Enhanced partitioning and transport of phenolic micropollutants within polyamide composite membranes

Emil Drazevic, Sarit Bason, Kresimir Kosutic, Viatcheslav Freger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Aromatic phenols represent an important class of endocrine-disrupting and toxic pollutants, many of which (e.g., bisphenol A and substituted phenols) are known to be insufficiently removed by reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration polyamide membranes that are widely used for water purification. In this study, the mechanism of phenol transport across the polyamide layer of RO membranes is studied using model phenolic compounds hydroquinone (HQ) and its oxidized counterpart benzoquinone (BQ). The study employs filtration experiments and two electrochemical techniques, impedance spectroscopy (EIS) and chronoamperometry (CA), to evaluate the permeability of an RO membrane SWC1 to these solutes in the concentration range 0.1-10 mM. In addition, combination of the permeability data with EIS results allows separately estimating the average diffusivity and partitioning of BQ and HQ. All methods produced permeability of the order 10-7 to 10-6 m s-1 that decreased with solute concentration, even though the permeability obtained from filtration was consistently lower. The decrease of permeability with concentration could be related to the nonlinear convex partitioning isotherm, in agreement with earlier measurements by FTIR. The diffusivity of HQ and BQ was estimated to be of the order 10-15 m2 s-1 and partitioning coefficient of the order 10. The high affinity of phenols toward polyamide and their high uptake may change membrane characteristics at high concentration of the solute. EIS results and hydraulic permeability indeed showed that permeability to ions and water significantly decreases with increasing concentration of organic solute.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3377-3383
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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