Charged hydrogels are capable of swelling in aqueous salt solutions, whereby part of the salt ions is repelled due to the presence of fixed charged groups inside the hydrogel. This effect creates a concentration gradient between the absorbed solution and the surrounding fluid known as salt partitioning, offering a potential for these materials to be employed to desalinate saltwater. If the charged hydrogels are thermo-sensitive as well, then the purer, absorbed solution can be recovered by shrinking the hydrogels upon temperature change. To tailor that potential in water-purification and desalination applications, the main parameters influencing the salt partitioning, the deswelling of the hydrogels, and the recovery of water must be understood. In this paper, we analyze these factors based on equations derived from the Donnan theory. In addition, hydrogels composed of N-isopropyl acrylamide and acrylic acid are synthesized, and their salt rejection efficiency in a model desalination experiment is studied. A comparison of the experimental and the theoretical results demonstrates that the charge density of the hydrogels at their equilibrium swelling and the degree of water recovery are two parameters controlling the salt rejection efficiency. These parameters are individually controlled by the content of the ionic groups and the degree of cross-linking of the gel polymer network. In addition, the prediction of the theory and the experimental results demonstrate that the salt rejection efficiency can be significantly improved if a second water recovery step is performed by a secondary increase in the temperature in the deswelling process.
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Research Article| April 12 2021
Salt partitioning in ionized, thermo-responsive hydrogels: perspective to water desalination
Amir Jangizehi ;
Amir Jangizehi, Sebastian Seiffert; Salt partitioning in ionized, thermo-responsive hydrogels: perspective to water desalination. J. Chem. Phys. 14 April 2021; 154 (14): 144902. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0044376
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