(6jl) Development of Advanced Polymeric Membranes for Water-Energy Nexus Challenges

Authors: 
Ahmadiannamini, P., University of Arkansas

Water and energy systems are inextricably linked. Water is used in all phases of energy production. Energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses, and then again to treat wastewaters prior to their return to the environment. Both resources are limiting the other—and both may be running short.

Water treatment technologies can enhance energy efficiency of water systems and enable the productive and safe use of non-traditional water resources for energy and non-energy applications. Such improvements in water treatment and management have particular use for treating oil- and gas-produced waters, as well as saline aquifers, brackish groundwater, brines, seawater, and municipal wastewater.

Membrane separations represent sustainable and often more cost-efficient alternatives to classical separation methods such as distillations, crystallizations, extractions, preparative chromatography, etc. However, existing membrane technology is far from providing optimal sustainability, particularly due to performance decline caused by compaction, fouling, repeated cleaning to alleviate fouling, and resulting gradual deterioration of the membrane material.

My research has been focused on development of novel membrane materials; fabrication techniques; and advanced membrane-based processes. I have been particularly active in the following following research areas: (1) Development of polyelectrolyte multilayer membranes for water and organic solvent purification. (2) Development of mixed matrix nano- and meso-composite membranes with enhanced performances. (3) Development of charged mosaic membranes for separation of water-soluble organic substances from complex mixtures. (4) Development of novel approaches to control membrane fouling. (5) Development of interfacially polymerized catalytic membranes for simultaneous biomass hydrolysis and sugar separation.

The future research that I intend to implement promises to advance multiple areas that currently dominate the field of membrane separations: (1) Development of novel approaches to enhance performance of functional membranes for specific (reactive) separation applications by incorporating functional materials. (2) Development of highly selective and permeable membranes yielding superior permeate flux performance. (3) Providing important insights into fundamental mechanisms of membrane fouling under a wide range of operating conditions. (4) Development of solvent resistant nanofiltration (SRNF) membranes for substituting conventional separation processes of organic solutions and crude oil.