Studies and research on air pollution have sparked worldwide interest in the recent decades to overcome the imminent threat of air pollution. The air filtration mechanism is one of the efficient ways to capture particulate matter (PM) and purify the air. An innovatory air filtration mechanism blending polyacrylonitrile (PAN)/polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) polymer nanofibers has been proposed by Prof Ranjit Thapa and his PhD scholar Deepak S Gavali from the Department of Physics.
The paper “Low Basis Weight Polyacrylonitrile/Polyvinylpyrrolidone Blended Nanofiber Membranes for Efficient Particulate Matter Capture” was published in collaboration with Applied NanoPhysics Laboratory, Department of Physics and Nanotechnology, SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Kattankulathur. It was featured in the journal ‘ACS Applied Polymer Materials’ having an Impact Factor of 4.09.
In the twenty-first century, air pollution is a major problem facing human and environmental health. Every year, millions of people die, mostly in developing nations, owing to the aggravating level of air pollution. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 92 per cent of the people live in places where the air quality level has crossed the WHO limits. Particulate matter (PM) (solid or liquid particles with different aerodynamic diameters), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and others are the relevant air contaminants.
In low-income cities, the effect of PM 2.5 pollution is high due to high urban air pollution. Even at very low concentrations, PM 2.5 (particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 µm) pollution has health consequences. Air filtration is one of the best remedies to tackle such problems and maintain a clean environment for humans. Among the available air filter materials, fiber-based air filters have proven to be the most potentially effective treatment, due to their high porosity, high surface area, lightweight, etc.
This study relies on a careful design that blends PAN and PVP fibers. The resultant nanofiber material is utilized to overcome the low air pressure resistance issue with high filtration efficiency. Large-scale free-standing nanofibers were obtained by a simple peeling-off process. The morphology, chemical interaction between the filter media and PM pollutant; and filtration properties were investigated. Compared to commercial mask, the semi- high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter media, PAN/PVP filter medium showed superior performance in PM 2.5 filtration. Furthermore, the intermolecular interactions between PMs and nanofibers were analyzed by DFT calculations. With constant optimization of synthesis conditions, the synthesized air filters achieved high filtration efficiency for PM removal and showed great potential for practical application.
Abstract of the Research
Particulate matter (PM) in air frequently poses a serious threat to human health. Smaller PM can easily enter into the alveolus and blood vessels with airflow. This work reports the first polyacrylonitrile (PAN)/polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) polymer blend nanofiber filter media for effectively capturing PM. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations are used to investigate the effect of the blending of two polymers on the dipole moment and the electrostatic potential. Based on the DFT calculations of the intermolecular interactions between nanofibers and PM, the PAN/PVP heteromolecular percentage is considered for experimental synthesis, which can provide better performance in the filtration of pollutants. The composite PAN/PVP fiber network was successfully developed and optimized to cope with complex environments during the actual filtration process. The role of the blending ratio of PAN and PVP in wt % was explored on PM 2.5 capture, and the refined ratio overcame the conflict between high filtration efficiency and low air pressure resistance. The air filter medium PAN/PVP (6:2) possesses an extremely high air filtration efficiency of 92% under a very low pressure drop of 18 Pa for a 0.5 g m–2 basis weight. Both polar and nonpolar functional groups in blend nanofibers promoted significantly the electrostatic attraction and improved the filtration efficiency under static and dynamic airflow. The PAN/PVP nanofiber membranes maintain outstanding air filtration under different temperature and humidity conditions. This study will shed light on the fabrication of high-efficiency low-basis weight nanofiber filter media as an end product.