CHBE Seminar: Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon, University of Connecticut, Chemical and Biomolecular Engr
Friday, April 21, 2023
301 405 9764
Title: Customizing Membranes using Additive Manufacturing:Enabling New Materials in Water Treatment and Beyond
Abstract: The way that we manufacture reverse osmosis (RO) membranes for desalination and water treatment has not changed in over 40 years. This process, known as interfacial polymerization, was highly successful in making high performance RO membranes, but it was very limited to small subset of polymers (condensation polymers). This limitation prevented the development of membranes made from emergent materials (e.g. carbon nanotubes, graphene, other polymers, etc.) as those materials were not amenable to defect free formation at film thicknesses of less than 200 nm. The process itself is also not without its own drawbacks.
The emergence of additive manufacturing has driven new concepts around membrane manufacturing that may enable the use of new materials in high performance membranes. Additive manufacturing confers a number of benefits including customizability, thickness control, morphology control, and hierarchical design. Our work has identified electrospray printing amongst the most promising additive manufacturing approaches for making membranes. Electrospray printing is capable of producing ultra-thin, defect free films of any solution processable polymer or polymer precursor. The ability to produce a defect free thin film enables the making of what are known as thin film composite (TFC) membranes from a variety of polymer materials. Our work demonstrates fabrication of TFC membranes from a variety of materials for applications in RO, nanofiltration, gas separations, and ion exchange applications. We contextualize this work in the broader perspective of membrane manufacturing needs beyond reverse osmosis.
Bio: Jeffrey McCutcheon is the Centennial Term Professor in the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department 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. For nearly 20 years, he has pioneered work in membrane based separations, notably in the areas of osmotic processes and membrane formation. He has raised over $12M to support research in the areas of forward osmosis, membrane distillation, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis, pervaporation, vapor permeation, organic solvent nanofiltration and additive manufacturing for membranes. He has published over 100 refereed publications and has several patents on membrane technology. He has served the separations community as a Director for both the AIChE Separations Division and the North American Membrane Society (NAMS) and recently served as President of NAMS. He currently serves as the Deputy Topic Area lead for Materials & Manufacturing Topic Area in the National Alliance for Water Innovation, the Department of Energy’s $100M “Water Hub” dedicated to supporting the development of desalination technology in the United States.
He has received numerous awards including the 3M Nontenured 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. He was the winner of the 2019 Global Water Summit Water Technology Idol competition for his work on 3D printed membranes and was named a quarter- and semi-finalist of the American Made Challenges Solar Desalination Prize from the Department of Energy for his work on ceramic membranes for solar-driven membrane distillation. He was inducted into the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in 2021. In 2017, he was named the Executive Director of Fraunhofer USA Center for Energy Innovation and served for 3 years before taking the Center to its now independent