New Membrane Designs for Forward Osmosis

Event Date: January 13, 2015
Speaker: Prof. Jeffrey McCutcheon
Speaker Affiliation: University of Connecticut
Time: 9:00 - 10:15 am
Location: FRNY G140
Priority: No

Abstract:  Forward osmosis (FO) is a rapidly emerging technology platform that harnesses the osmotic pressure difference between solutions of differing salinity. By harnessing osmosis in an engineered process environment, innovative technologies for desalination, water reuse, dewatering, and power production can be realized. However, a vast majority of FO development has been hindered by the lack of appropriately-designed membranes that facilitate the use of this unusual driving force and thus exhibit high water flux, superior selectivity, chemical stability and adequate mechanical strength. At the University of Connecticut, we have developed a number of new polymeric thin film composite membranes that function well in a number of FO applications. One of our developments has been a modified reverse osmosis membrane that has a demonstrated 20-fold improvement in water flux over its unmodified counterpart.  Another is our cast nylon 6,6 microfiltration membrane supported thin film composite membrane which has matched productivity of a standard commercial FO membrane but is 10 times more selective. One of our most innovative flat-sheet platforms is our electrospun nanofiber supported TFC membrane.  The high porosity and low tortuosity of the nanofiber nonwoven support material facilitates mass transport and thus enables excellent osmotic performance.  Lastly, our newest work is on a hollow fiber TFC membrane designed for osmotic applications.  Each of these membrane platforms has its own benefits and drawbacks.  Each also has varying prospects for commercial development. These issues will be discussed in the context of other FO commercialization efforts occurring around the world.

Bio:  Jeffrey McCutcheon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and at the University of Connecticut.  He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Yale University.   At the University of Connecticut, he serves as a Center Faculty at the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Director the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering REU-Site, and Director of the UConn Piloting Facility.  Since his appointment in Fall of 2008, he has established the Sustainable Water and Energy Laboratory (SWEL), an interdisciplinary research environment that supports 10 graduate students and 4 undergraduate researchers.  His primary research efforts are focused on osmotic processes, including forward osmosis (FO) and pressure retarded osmosis (PRO).  His work has resulted in 34 publications, 2 book chapters, 5 pending patents, and a number of invited seminars around the world.  He is an elected Director in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Separations Division and serves on the North American Membrane Society (NAMS) Board of Directors. He is co-chair for a number of upcoming international membrane related meetings, including the ACS workshop on “Advances in Materials and Processes for Polymeric Membrane Mediated Water Purification” to be held in Pacific Grove, CA in Spring 2015, the NAMS Annual Meeting to be held in Boston, MA in Summer 2015, and the Gordon Research Conference on Membranes and Membrane Processes to be held in Summer 2016.  He has received a number of awards including the 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award, the Solvay Advanced Polymers Young Faculty Award, The DuPont Young Faculty Award, and the FRI/John G. Kunesh Award from the AIChE Separations Division.