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Dr. Freeman wins the 2013 Society of Plastics Engineers International Award

Dr. Freeman has been awarded the 2013 Society of Plastics Engineers International Award.  This International Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Society of Plastics Engineers.  It recognizes lifetime achievements in the fields of polymer science or polymer/plastics engineering.  Nominees are recognized internationally by their peers for excellence in their fields.

Dr. Freeman was given the award based on his seminal contributions to plastics engineering, research, technology, service, and education in polymer membranes for low-energy gas and liquid separations.  An award symposium will be held at the SPE ANTEC meeting April 22-24, 2013 in Cincinnati.  The award comes with a $5,000 honorarium and a gold medal.

Hee Jeung Oh wins Doh Wonsuk Memorial Award from Korean Institute of Chemical Engineers

Hee Jeung Oh, a PhD student, has won a Doh Wonsuk Memorial Award from Korean Institute of Chemical Engineers. The Doh Wonsuk Memorial Award has been awarded once a year to 1-2 Korean student(s) studying Chemical Engineering in doctoral programs in the United States since 2004 by the US Chapter of Korean Institute of Chemical Engineering. Hee Jeung is the 4th UT Austin student to win this award since 2004.

Membranes for Energy and Environmental Applications

Polymer membranes are critically important in addressing urgent global needs in the 21st century for energy efficient gas separations as well as reliable, sustainable, efficient access to clean energy and clean water. In the gas separation field, polymer membranes are now well established for air separation, hydrogen purification, and, increasingly, natural gas processing. We are working on new membranes based on so-called thermally-rearranged polymers, which have among the highest combinations of gas permeability and selectivity. We are also extending the range of applications where polymer membranes are used for gas separations to applications such as olefin/paraffin separation and bioethanol purification. We have an ongoing interest in exploring fundamentals of gas transport through polymers, including studies of multicomponent transport and exploring the physics underlying long-term changes in polymer transport properties, a process called physical aging.

Polymer membranes have also emerged as a leading technology to desalinate water (e.g., reverse osmosis) and are being explored for energy generation in applications such as reverse electrodialysis and pressure retarded osmosis. Furthermore, efforts are under way to develop additional applications of membranes for water purification, such as forward osmosis and membrane-assisted capacitive deionization. In each of these applications, control of small molecule transport (gases, water and ions) across polymer membranes is critically important for optimizing performance of such membranes. One aspect of our work focuses on the fundamentals of small molecule transport in polymers obeying the solution/diffusion model. Structure/property correlations have been developed for a variety of polymers, including uncharged and charged materials. The role of free volume in governing diffusion of solutes through polymers is explored. Consistent with the so-called upper bound relations in gas separation membrane materials, the existence of a water-salt permeability/selectivity tradeoff relation is observed for polymers being considered for water purification and energy generation applications. Areas where the physics of water and ion transport are both similar to and different from those of gas transport in polymers are highlighted. Additional areas of study include development of desalination and gas separation membranes via melt processing, rather than conventional processing from organic solvents.

Across many platforms of membranes, fouling mitigation is a major challenge to be addressed to achieve the most energy-efficient, cost-effective membrane filtration processes. Previously, many surface modifications and functionalized polymers were reported to prevent fouling. However, most of these techniques and materials are practically difficult to implement in water purification membranes. We have discovered surface treatment methodologies that can be used to prepare high permeability polymeric membranes from all common water purification membrane classes. These surface-modified membranes have persistent tolerance to fouling by emulsified oil, a ubiquitous contaminant in a variety of wastewaters. These membranes were prepared by depositing bio-inspired, self-polymerized, hydrophilic polydopamine.

We are also working on new barrier materials based on oxygen scavenging technology. These materials promise to extend the range of use of polymers for many high barrier packaging applications in areas as diverse as food packaging or flexible electronic displays.

Geoff Geise wins student oral presentation award at ICOM

Congratulations to Geoff Geise who won one of four student oral presentation awards at International Congress on Membrane and Membrane Processes (ICOM) for his talk on “Positron Annihilation Lifetime Spectroscopy (PALS) Characterization of Polymeric Membrane Materials for Desalination Applications”. The award, sponsored by European Membrane Society, is selected from a group of over ninety presentations.

Daniel Miller was awarded the graduate level First Prize for North American College Student Technical Writing Competition

Daniel Miller wins North American College Student Technical Writing Competition

Congratulations to Dan Miller who was awarded the graduate level First Prize in the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) 2012 North American College Student Technical Writing Competition sponsored by the Polymer Modifiers and Additives (PMAD) Division. The PMAD Challenge is a technical writing competition involving the critical review of one of three selected journal articles and the development of a research proposal based upon the review of the selected paper. Submissions are reviewed and judged by a team of university professors and plastics industry technical professionals. Prizes are awarded to both undergraduate and graduate student winners of the competition who demonstrate excellence in technical writing and scientific creativity. As the First Prize winner, Dan will be invited to attend the SPE’s annual ANTEC meeting in Orlando, FL on April 2-4, 2012, where he will be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.