The performance of superhydrophobic and superoleophilic carbon nanotube meshes in water–oil filtration

Chee Huei Lee, Michigan Technological University
Nick Johnson, Michigan Technological University
Jaroslaw Drelich, Michigan Technological University
Yoke Khin Yap, Michigan Technological University

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. Publisher's version of record:


Vertically-aligned multi-walled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were grown on stainless steel (SS) mesh by thermal chemical vapor deposition with a diffusion barrier of Al2O3 film. These three-dimensional porous structures (SS-CNT meshes) were found to be superhydrophobic and superoleophilic. Water advancing contact angles of 145–150° were determined for these SS-CNT meshes in air and oil (gasoline, isooctane). Oil, on the other hand, completely wet the SS-CNT meshes. This combined superhydrophobic and superoleophilic property repelled water while allowed the permeation of oil. Filtration tests demonstrated efficiencies better than 80% of these SS-CNT meshes as the filtration membranes of the water-in-oil emulsions. We have conducted quantitative analysis on the diameters of the oil droplets in both the feed emulsion and the filtrate. Then, we have evaluated the issue of water blockage and possible way to improve the filtration efficiency. Finally, the filtration and blockage mechanisms are proposed.