Current Pollution Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 84–92 | Cite as

Removal of Heavy Metals by Polymer Inclusion Membranes

  • Nur Shahira Wahida Zulkefeli
  • Soo Kar Weng
  • Nurul Syazana Abdul Halim
Water Pollution (L Nghiem, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Water Pollution


Heavy metals cannot be biodegraded and they remain in the environment until being removed. Thus, the removal of heavy metals from contaminated water is of special concern for the protection of human and aquatic lives. Studies on polymer inclusion membranes (PIMs) started more than 50 years ago and have shown outstanding separation performance of metal ions. The potential and capabilities of PIMs have made it more favorable than ion exchange and liquid-liquid extraction process. To achieve efficient transport of metal ions, different types of extractant with compatible base polymer have been successfully used along with suitable targeted metal ions. However, selectivity of metal ion is only limited to one type of metal ion based on the extractant used in PIMs. The present review describes the current literature on heavy metal removal using PIMs for the past 3 years. The compatibility of extractant with base polymer and plasticizer is discussed. Most of PIM studies used cellulose triacetate (CTA) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as the base polymer, and only a few studies have used other base polymers. These new base polymers have shown better PIMs in terms of stability and separation performance compared to the CTA- and PVC-based PIMs. Moreover, a new invention of dual PIM separation system has allowed simultaneous separation of multiple metal ions. Such improvement in PIM technology can speed up commercialization process and make it viable for large scale and industrial use especially in hydrometallurgy and wastewater treatment.


Polymer inclusion membranes (PIMs) Heavy metals Liquid membranes Extractant Plasticizer 



2-Nitrophenyl octyl ether


2-Nitrophenyl pentyl ether


Dioctyl adipate

Aliquat 336

Trioctylmethylammonium chloride






Diglycolamide-functionalized calix[4]arene


Cellulose acetate butyrate


Cellulose acetate phthalate






Cellulose triacetate


Cellulose tribenzoate



Cyphos 101

Trihexyl(tetradecyl)phosphonium chloride

Cyphos 104

Trihexyl(tetradecyl)phosphonium bromide

Cyphos 167

Tributyl(tetradecyl)phosphonium chloride


Di(2-ethylhexyl) phosphoric acid


Dioctyl phthalate


Dioctyl terephthalate




Iron chloride




Nitric acid


Ion selective electrodes


2-Hydroxy-5-nonylacetopnone oxime






Sodium nitrate




Nitrophenyl octyl ether


Nitrophenyl phentyl ether




o-Nitrophenyl pentyl ether




Polymer inclusion membranes




Polyvinyl chloride


Polyvinyl difluoride


Oly(vinylidene) fluoride-co-hexafluoropropene


Reduced graphene oxide




Supported liquid membranes


N,N,N′,N′-Tetra-2-ethylhexyl diglycolamide


Tri-(2-ethylhexyl) phosphate


Tris(2-butoxyethyl) phosphate


Tris-(2-butoxyethyl) phosphate


4-(10-n-tridecyl)pyridine N-oxide


Tris-(ethylhexyl) phosphate










N,N,N′,N′-Tetra-n-octyl diglycolamide







The authors would like to thank the research participants for their time and effort involved with the research.

Funding Information

This study was funded by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education for under the grant FRGS/A08.00/00453A/001/2015/000285.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nur Shahira Wahida Zulkefeli
    • 1
  • Soo Kar Weng
    • 1
  • Nurul Syazana Abdul Halim
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Earth ScienceUniversiti Malaysia KelantanJeliMalaysia

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