University of Oulu

T. Luukkonen, E. Olsen, A. Turkki, E. Muurinen, Ceramic-like membranes without sintering via alkali activation of metakaolin, blast furnace slag, or their mixture: Characterization and cation-exchange properties, Ceramics International (2022), doi:

Ceramic-like membranes without sintering via alkali activation of metakaolin, blast furnace slag, or their mixture : characterization and cation-exchange properties

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Author: Luukkonen, Tero1; Olsen, Elisa1; Turkki, Auli2;
Organizations: 1Fibre and Particle Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Environmental and Chemical Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-11-24


Alkali-activated (or geopolymer) membranes have emerged recently as an alternative for conventional ceramic membranes. Their main benefit is the simple and low-energy manufacturing not requiring sintering, and thus potential for clearly lower costs, while having largely similar performance as conventional ceramic materials. In this work, metakaolin, blast furnace slag, and their mixture (representing typical low, high, and medium Ca-content raw materials, respectively) were compared as aluminosilicate precursors for the preparation of self-supporting membrane disks (diameter 75 mm, height 3 mm). A thorough material characterization was performed to evaluate mechanical strength, shrinkage, microstructure, chemical composition, pore size distribution, specific surface area, zeta potential, and water flux at different temperatures (20–60 °C) and pressures (200–1000 kPa). Based on this screening, metakaolin-based membrane (i.e., the low-calcium system) indicated overall better performance than the two others based on blast furnace slag or their mixture. As a final part of the study, ammonium-containing model effluent ([NH4+] = 50 mg L⁻¹) was distributed through the membrane (using 200 kPa pressure at 25 °C) to evaluate the potential for nitrogen removal and recovery. The mass balance examination indicated that ammonium was retained in the membrane matrix (i.e., not concentrated in the retentate fraction), and thus the likely removal mechanism was via ion-exchange. The obtained results provide interesting insights for the further development of alkali-activated membranes for applications requiring ammonium nitrogen removal, such as membrane bioreactors in municipal wastewater treatment.

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Series: Ceramics international
ISSN: 0272-8842
ISSN-E: 1873-3956
ISSN-L: 0272-8842
DOI: 10.1016/j.ceramint.2022.11.252
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 216 Materials engineering
218 Environmental engineering
215 Chemical engineering
Funding: This work was supported by the Academy of Finland (grant #326291) and Centre for Material Analysis at University of Oulu (access to analytical instruments).
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. under a Creative Commons license.