(6cx) Novel Electrokinetic Solutions for Energy and Environmental Problems | AIChE

(6cx) Novel Electrokinetic Solutions for Energy and Environmental Problems

Research Interests: Electrokinetics, Transport Phenomena, Computational Science and Engineering, High Performance Computing

Teaching Interests: Transport Phenomena, Thermodynamics, Numerical Analysis, Mathematical Physics

Ion transport phenomena and electrochemical processes in porous media are relevant to many technologies including energy storage in batteries and supercapacitors, water desalination through capacitive deionization, electrokinetic remediation of contaminated soil, and monitoring of fluid flow in underground reservoirs. Although these problems are inherently multi-scale and multi-physics in nature, they are fundamentally described by similar processes. My future research will focus on understanding the underlying mechanisms of ion transport and their implications for optimizing existing technologies and possible novel applications.

During my PhD at UC Santa Barbara, and under the joint supervision of Prof. Frederic Gibou and Prof. Todd Squires, I developed efficient computational techniques for studying ion transport in porous media. My research led to the discovery of the significance of pore microstructure and surface conduction in accelerating the charging kinetics and has inspired new guidelines for designing porous electrodes, e.g. based on CNT or graphene. As a postdoctoral researcher at MIT in Prof. Martin Bazant’ lab, I am currently investigating novel applications of electrokinetic phenomena to two-phase flow problems in porous media. My work in this area has led to the surprising discovery that electro-osmotic flows can control, and under certain conditions suppress, viscous fingering. This finding has exciting implications for environmental problems, e.g. improving the extraction efficiency during secondary oil recovery. I am further investigating the possibility of using electrokinetic-assisted flows as a new and efficient fracturing technique for shale gas harvesting.

As a new faculty, I will apply my combined knowledge of transport phenomena and mechanics as well as computational skills to challenging problems for energy and environmental applications. In particular, my research group will focus on understanding and optimizing the performance of CDI technology for water desalination where recent developments in flow-electrode designs has promising prospects for grid-scale energy storage. I am also interested in further exploring novel applications in the area of geomechanics and two-phase electrokinetic flows for enhanced oil and gas recovery. For instance, while recent experimental observations suggest low-salinity water injection can substantially improve secondary oil recovery, the exact physical cause is still debated. This is inherently a multi-scale and multi-physics problem involving ion transport, fluid flow, and surface chemistry processes that span sub-micron to kilometer in length-scale. I am confident that my expertise in computational and theoretical modeling of ion transport put me in a unique position to tackle these problems and help me to advance this field in collaboration with experimental colleagues.