Acta Phys. -Chim. Sin. ›› 2018, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (5): 456-475.doi: 10.3866/PKU.WHXB201709211

• REVIEW • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Oil-Water Separation Based on the Materials with Special Wettability

Wentao LI1,2,Jiale YONG1,3,Qing YANG1,2,*(),Feng CHEN1,3,*(),Yao FANG1,3,Xun HOU3   

  1. 1 State Key Laboratory for Manufacturing System Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an 710049, P. R. China
    2 School of Mechanical Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an 710049, P. R. China
    3 School of Electronics & Information Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Key Laboratory of Photonics Technology for Information of Shaanxi Province, Xi'an 710049, P. R. China
  • Received:2017-08-29 Published:2018-01-24
  • Contact: Qing YANG,Feng CHEN;
  • Supported by:
    the National Natural Science Foundation of China(51335008);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(61475124);the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the China Academy of Engineering Physics (NSAF)(U1630111);the National Key Research and Development Program of China(2017YFB1104700);China Postdoctoral Science Foundation(2016M600786)


The frequency of oil-spill accidents and industrial wastewater discharges have caused severe water pollution, not only resulting in huge economic losses but also threatening the ecological system. Recently, researchers have developed different types of materials with special wettability (such as superhydrophobicity or superoleophobicity) and used them successfully for oil-water separation. Superhydrophobic and superoleophobic surfaces can generally be obtained by designing the surface geometric micro-topography and chemical composition of solid materials. Endowing porous materials with reverse super-wettability to water and oil using various microfabrication technologies is the key to separate oil-water mixtures. In this review we initially identify the significance of fabricating oil/water-separating materials and achieving effective separations. Then, the typical theoretical principles underlying surface wettability are briefly introduced. According to the difference in surface wettabilities toward water and oil, we classify the current oil-water separating materials into three categories: (ⅰ) superhydrophobic/superoleophilic materials, (ⅱ) superoleophobic/ superhydrophilic materials, and (ⅲ) smart-response materials with switchable wettability. This review summarizes the representative research work for each of these materials, including their fabrication methods, principle and process of oil-water separation, and main characteristics and applications. Finally, existing problems, challenges, and future prospects of this fast-growing field of special wettability porous materials for the separation of oil-water mixtures are discussed.

Key words: Oil-water separation, Superhydrophobicity, Superoleophobicity, Smart-response, Wettability


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