The base wood used in this study was American basswood purchased from Walnut Hollow Company. Two types of woods were prepared for membrane fabrication. One type of membrane was made from natural wood without lignin treatment, and another was constructed using treated nanowood, which underwent lignin removal process to increase flexibility and porosity. The nanowood was prepared from natural wood slices (thickness, 2 mm) by boiling the wood along cellulose fiber direction for 12 hours, followed by rinsing in hot distilled water three times to remove residuals (51, 52). The product was subsequently immersed in the boiling bleaching solution until the wood turned white (Fig. 3, A and B). Last, each wood sample was rinsed with cold water and freeze-dried to preserve the nanoporous structure of the delignified wood (39).

Similar procedures were used on pieces of nanowood and natural wood for membrane fabrication. After the above treatment, the average thickness of the nanowood was 502 ± 35 μm, while the average thickness of natural wood was 540 ± 15 μm (fig. S3). Wood consists of naturally aligned cellulose fibers with abundant hydroxyl functional groups that allow surface modification via silane chemistry (fig. S1). The nanowood was dipped into the FAS solution with gentle agitation for 10 hours to enable full infiltration before thorough ethanol rinse. Then, the FAS-treated wood was subjected to heat treatment at 120°C for 4 hours in a vacuum oven (−80 kPa). After this treatment, the hydrophilic wood membranes became hydrophobic with FAS loadings of wood (71.3 ± 5.4 mg FAS g−1). The membrane samples were characterized using SEM, contact angle measurements, PSD, porosity, and thermal conductivity (24, 39, 5355), and the performance in desalination was compared with commercial MD membranes.

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