Electrospun nanofiber composite membranes based on cellulose acetate/nano-zeolite for the removal of oil from oily wastewater

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Efficient separation of oil from oily wastewater is a great environmental challenge. Nano- and microfiber electrospun membranes can be used to remove oils and organics in wastewater through the nano- or microfiltration process. Due to the low degree of fouling and relatively high-water flux, electrospun membranes exhibit promising applications for wastewater treatment. This paper reports the fabrication and evaluation of electrospun membranes based on cellulose acetate (CA) and nano-zeolites. By carefully controlling different parameters, CA and CA/zeolite electrospun membranes were fabricated. Various characterization techniques were used to evaluate the electrospun membranes. The optimum CA concentration to fabricate the membrane was 16% (w/v), and 10% (w/w) nano-zeolites were successfully incorporated into the membrane. The scanning electron micrographs revealed that the fabricated membranes had a fiber diameter range of 100–3000 nm. The apparent pore sizes of the as-fabricated membranes were in micro-/submicrometer. The zeolite nanoparticles were observed to be incorporated successfully throughout the membranes and the presence of the zeolites was confirmed using the EDX spectrum and EDX elemental mapping. The resulting membranes exhibited super hydrophilicity. The final quality of filtered water was investigated by measuring the oil droplets using optical microscopy, and the absorbance of unfiltered and filtered water was measured using UV–Vis spectrophotometer. The microfiltration process allowed the water phase to pass through the CA and CA/zeolite electrospun membranes which repelled the dispersed oil droplets restricting them to stay on the surface. The oil separation efficiency was up to 97%. Owing to biodegradability, non-toxic properties, and cost-effectiveness of the fabrication process, the membranes can be potentially used in microfiltration to remove oil in oily wastewater.

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