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Carbon nanotube-templated polyaniline nanofibers: synthesis, flash welding and ultrafiltration membranes


Electro-active switchable ultrafiltration membranes are of great interest due to the possibility of external control over permeability, selectivity, anti-fouling and cleaning. Here, we report on hybrid single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT)–polyaniline (PANi) nanofibers synthesized by in situ polymerization of aniline in the presence of oxidized SWCNTs. The composite nanofibers exhibit unique morphology of core–shell (SWCNT–PANi) structures with average total diameters of 60 nm with 10 to 30 nm thick PANi coatings. The composite nanofibers are easily dispersed in polar aprotic solvents and cast into asymmetric membranes via a nonsolvent induced phase separation. The hybrid SWCNT–PANi membranes are electrically conductive at neutral pH and exhibit ultrafiltration-like permeability and selectivity when filtering aqueous suspensions of 6 nm diameter bovine serum albumin and 48 nm diameter silica particles. A novel flash welding technique is utilized to tune the morphology, porosity, conductivity, permeability and nanoparticle rejection of the SWCNT–PANi composite ultrafiltration membranes. Upon flash welding, both conductivity and pure water permeability of the membranes improves by nearly a factor of 10, while maintaining silica nanoparticle rejection levels above 90%. Flash welding of SWCNT–PANi composite membranes holds promise for formation of electrochemically tunable membranes.