Elements Provide a Clue: Nanoscale Characterization of Thin-Film Composite Polyamide Membranes

Xinglin Lu, Siamak Nejati, Youngwoo Choo, Chinedum O. Osuji, Jun Ma, Menachem Elimelech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


In this study, we exploit the nitrogen-sulfur elemental contrast of thin-film composite (TFC) polyamide membranes and present, for the first time, the application of two elemental analysis techniques, scanning transmission electron microscopy-energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (STEM-EDX) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) C60+ ion-beam sputtering, to elucidate the nanoscale structure and chemical composition of the polyamide-polysulfone interface. Although STEM-EDX elemental mapping depicts the presence of a dense polyamide layer at the interface, it is incapable of resolving the elemental contrast at nanoscale resolution at the interfacial zone. Depth-resolved XPS C60+ ion-beam sputtering enabled nanoscale characterization of the polyamide-polysulfone interface and revealed the presence of a heterogeneous layer that contains both polyamide and polysulfone signatures. Our results have important implications for future studies to elucidate the structure-property-performance relationship of TFC membranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16917-16922
Number of pages6
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 12 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • elemental contrast
  • nanoscale characterization
  • polyamide-polysulfone interface
  • thin-film composite membrane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)

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