Thin film deposition techniques for polymeric membranes– A review

Musthafa O. Mavukkandy, Samantha A. McBride, David M. Warsinger, Nadir Dizge, Shadi W. Hasan, Hassan A. Arafat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Thin film deposition (TFD) allows for precise tuning of the chemical and physical properties of a membrane to improve performance, including the selectivity, flux, chemical resistance, and antifouling and antimicrobial properties. TFD techniques have a unique advantage over other traditional surface modification methods (e.g., grafting) vis-à-vis their applicability to low-surface energy polymers, which usually resist modification through other techniques. TFD is also an economical approach to surface modification as inexpensive base materials can be functionalized with small amounts of more expensive active chemistries. Here, we review a range of TFD techniques and their applicability for the modification of polymeric membranes to improve durability and performance across water treatment applications. The discussed techniques include sputtering, thermal evaporation, chemical vapor deposition, atomic layer deposition, electrochemical deposition, electron beam deposition, Langmuir-Blodgett deposition, and colloidal deposition. We review how recent developments in TFD techniques have made these methods a competitive alternative to other methods of membrane modification and discuss how modified membranes lead to improved performance for water applications, including microfiltration, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis, and membrane distillation. Relative advantages of each coating process are discussed. We also discuss how process parameters for the various TFD techniques (deposition speed, versatility, conformality, thickness, bonding strength, temperature, etc.) influence the final chemical and physical properties of modified membranes. We conclude with an outlook for how further developments in TFD techniques will continue to introduce new possibilities for unique membrane properties and applications.

Original languageBritish English
Article number118258
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Interfacial coating
  • Polymer membrane
  • Surface modification
  • Thin film deposition
  • Water treatment


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