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Oil-Water Separation Based on 2D Materials
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Oil-Water Separation Based on 2D Materials

Membrane separations are important in a variety of procedures. The use of graphene and other two-dimensional (2D) materials in membrane technology has sparked a lot of interest since its tunability allows them to filter contaminants that were previously thought to be impossible to filter. Alfa Chemistry can provide specific 2D material solutions to meet our customers' application needs.

Due to their high surface-to-volume ratio and absorption capacity, which leads to increased adsorption or catalytic capabilities, nano/micron materials are of interest in environmental remediation. However, because of bulk manufacture, high product costs, and inadvertent leakage, they are impossible to utilize on their own. We make 2D materials loaded with nano/micron materials for oil-water separation to boost the strength and compensate for the deficiencies of nano/micron materials. Please get in touch with us right away if you need assistance with your oil-water separation study.

Oil-Water Separation Mechanism

The wettability behavior of droplets on a rough surface can be explained by the Wenzel state, the transition state, and the Cassie state.

Four types of contact models of a droplet on solid substrates.Fig 1. Four types of contact models of a droplet on solid substrates. (a) Wenzel state; (b) Cassie state; (c) transition state; and (d) underwater Cassie state - oil droplet on the hydrophilic rough surface in water. (Lee H, et al. 2020)

The rough surface of a hydrophilic substrate with a rough surface can be thoroughly wetted by water when immersed in water. If an oil drop is placed on a pre-wetted surface, it will be repelled by the trapped water pad within the rough surface. The oil droplet is regarded to be in the "underwater Cassie condition" since it just stays on the rough surface.

The repulsion between the intercepted water cushion and the oil droplets gives the substrate its oil repellency. Therefore, once the oil/water mixture meets the superhydrophobic filter, only the oil can penetrate the superhydrophobic filter. When superhydrophobic absorbents encounter the oil/water mixture, they selectively absorb oil and repel water based on the repulsive forces between the trapped air cushion and the water. These superhydrophobic absorbers also absorb heavy oil underwater when immersed in the oil/water mixture. Superhydrophobic sorbents that are pre-wetted with water can selectively absorb water and repel oil under the oil using the repulsive force between the trapped water cushion and the oil.

2D Materials Solution

Alfa Chemistry offers filtration materials for oil-water separation.

Mesh-based materials

Because of their superior mechanical qualities, high separation efficiency and rates, and simplicity, metal meshes such as copper and stainless steel mesh are commonly employed for oil-water separation. However, most copper meshes with rough surfaces are synthesized using toxic chemicals. Alfa Chemistry created graded oxidized copper meshes with varied surface morphologies using a simple and environmentally friendly convection heat treatment technology that does not use harmful chemicals.

To achieve the wetting qualities required for oil-water separation, we utilize polymers to functionalize the metal mesh. Superhydrophilic meshes have been created using cationic or anionic polyelectrolytes. Meshes with superhydrophilic and submerged superoleophobic qualities can be employed for oil-water separation after being modified with polyelectrolytes. Meshes with superhydrophilic and submerged superoleophobic qualities can also be made with polyacrylamide hydrogels.

Fabric-based materials

Fabrics are also considered for oil/water separation because they do not corrode and are lightweight, flexible, and cost-effective.

Schematic illustration of the superhydrophobic fabrics fabricated by etching and dip-coating process.Fig 2. Schematic illustration of the superhydrophobic fabrics fabricated by etching and dip-coating process. (Zhang C, et al. 2016)

Alfa Chemistry prepares polyaniline and fluorinated alkyl silane-coated cotton weaves using a CVD technique, adjusting the surface roughness of the fabric fibers by controlling the formation of nano/micro inorganic crystals on the fabric.

We used in situ growing methods to create robust superhydrophobic/superoleophilic fabrics ornamented with metal oxides and metal nanocrystals, as well as metal nanoparticle coating to create diverse multi-scale rough surfaces with remarkable wettability.

We also used the dip-coating process to impart superhydrophobic/superoleophilic and superhydrophilic/superoleophobic qualities to the textiles. This dip-coating technique is a quick and easy way to give materials a specified wettability.

Fiber-based materials

Because the surface-to-volume ratio and porosity structure of nanofiber matrices can be easily controlled, electrostatic spinning has emerged as an effective technology for producing nanofiber matrices. Electrospun fibers in particular, with their large specific surface area and nanoscale pore structure, offer potential templates for oil-water separation.

Because the surface structure of electrospun nanofibers is easily destroyed and fragile, creating robust and lasting electrospun fiber membranes to assure acid and alkali resistance is a huge issue. The design, synthesis, and performance of diverse materials for oil/water separation are the focus of most of Alfa Chemistry's current research.


  1. Lee H, et al. (2020). "2D and 3D Bulk Materials for Environmental Remediation: Air Filtration and Oil/Water Separation." Materials (Basel). 13(24): 5714.
  2. Zhang C, et al. (2016). "Fabrication of Superhydrophobic-Superoleophilic Fabrics by An Etching and Dip-Coating Two-Step Method for Oil-Water Separation." Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 55: 5030-5035.

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