Imaging chemical extraction by polymer inclusion membranes using fluorescence microscopy

Clare A. Henderson, Edward A. Nagul, Robert W. Cattrall, Spas D. Kolev, Trevor A. Smith

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Polymer inclusion membranes (PIMs) transport chemicals between bodies of liquid by simultaneously performing chemical extraction and backextraction. The internal chemical and physical mechanisms by which this transport occurs are, however, poorly understood. Also, some PIMs, which are otherwise optimal for their task, age and lose function after only days, limiting their feasibility for industrial upscaling. Through the application of fluorescence imaging methods we are able for the first time to see where chemical extraction occurs in the membrane. Extraction of fluorescein from solution by PIMs demonstrates inhomogeneities that do not correlate to surface morphology. Fluorescence lifetime imaging demonstrates that regions of increased extraction have distinctly different fluorescence lifetimes to that of the surrounding PIM indicating localized chemical environments, and this is observed to change with membrane age. Fluorescence imaging is shown to allow probing and novel understanding of PIM internal chemical morphology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number024008
Number of pages7
JournalMethods and Applications in Fluorescence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Aliquat 336
  • Fluorescence lifetime imaging
  • Polymer inclusion membranes

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