Two-dimensional nanoporous and lamellar membranes for water purification: Reality or a myth?

Muhammad Bilal Asif, Sidra Iftekhar, Tahir Maqbool, Biplob Kumar Pramanik, Shamas Tabraiz, Mika Sillanpää, Zhenghua Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Wastewater contains only ∼ 1% impurities that are required to be separated precisely for water recycling and reuse applications, particularly in water scare regions. Membrane-based separation has been recognised as an environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient process for effective pollutant removal and clean water production. To further improve the selectivity and water flux of membranes, two-dimensional (2D) materials, such as graphene and those exhibiting graphene-like properties, have been intensively studied for nanoporous and lamellar membrane fabrication in the last decade. Herein, we critically review the progress in 2D membranes for water purification and uniquely discuss the performance governing factors and research gaps from the standpoint of environmental and material chemists, which are critical to realize 2D membrane commercialization. The major points of this review are: (1) among the six types of reviewed 2D membranes, graphene, graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide membrane have been predominantly studied for water treatment. (2) atomically thin nanoporous membranes with a defined pore size can achieve excellent water permeance and selectivity but large-scale fabrication of nanoporous membranes with uniform shape and size of nanopores remains a challenge. (3) salt separation performance of the pressurized lamellar membranes may not be comparable to commercial nanofiltration membranes. (4) functionalization or crosslinking of 2D materials is inevitable to stabilize 2D membrane pore structure and/or improve molecule separation. (5) membranes fabricated using emerging 2D materials such as born nitride and MXene appear to show better stability than graphene oxide membranes. (6) several aspects, particularly membrane stability, long-term performance, and membrane fouling propensity need attention to realize commercial application of 2D membranes in water treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134335
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • 2D materials
  • Membrane functionalization
  • Membranes
  • Separation mechanisms
  • Water purification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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