OVERVIEW OF RESEARCH ACHIEVEMENTS AND RESEARCH DIRECTIONS
By Dr. Benny D. Freeman
Our research program is largely experimental in nature and focuses on polymers and polymer-based composite materials, with particular emphasis on the fundamentals of transport of small molecules in polymers, which is applied in areas such as gas separation membranes, liquid separation membranes, water purification, barrier packaging, etc.
Our group is organized around three broad topics: gas separations, liquid separations, and barrier materials. There are approximately fifteen Ph.D. students in the research group, and our research is supported by a variety of federal, state, industrial sponsors.
Currently, our research efforts focus on: (1) synthesis and characterization of novel polymers for gas separation membrane applications (e.g., air separation, hydrogen purification, natural gas purification, pre-and post-combustion carbon capture, etc.), (2) surface modification of water purification membranes to reduce fouling for applications such as drinking water and wastewater purification using ultrafiltration and microfiltration membranes, (3) development of systematic structure/property correlations governing water and ion transport in neutral, cationic and anionic polymer membranes under both concentration driven and electric field driven separations for applications such as nanofiltration, forward and reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, reverse electrodialysis, and capacitive deionization, and (4) reactive materials for barrier packaging. In each of these research programs, we combine fundamental polymer science, polymer synthesis, and advanced characterization methods to develop an understanding of the structure of materials we study and their performance in the applications of interest.
We have strong collaborations with fundamental chemistry programs in the US and abroad and with engineering and materials science characterization groups around the world. Students graduating from our program typically have opportunities to continue their studies in the US or abroad, if they wish, or have access to a variety of job opportunities in academia, government laboratories, and industry. The group is primarily Chemical Engineering students, but we also have had students from Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering in the group, so it provides a multidisciplinary environment with a wide variety of expertise and experience in many different aspects of fundamental polymer science, polymer characterization, and polymer chemistry.