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Amanda Paine Wins Society of Plastics Engineers Poster Competition

Graduate student Amanda Paine won first place in a Society of Plastics Engineers’ (SPE) poster competition recently held in Houston, Texas.

The competition was part of SPE’s 2015 International Polyolefins Conference. Paine’s winning poster, entitled “Oxygen Scavenging Polymers for Barrier Applications,” showcases her work in improving oxygen barrier properties in polymer packaging. Her research focuses on improving the shelf lives of foods and beverages by incorporating oxygen scavenging polymers into packaging materials.

Paine was also awarded an SPE scholarship at the conference. She is supervised by Professor Benny Freeman, the Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering, and Professor Donald Paul, the Ernest Cockrell Sr. Chair in Engineering.

Amanda is a member of the Center for Layered Polymeric Systems (CLiPS), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center including UT Austin and led by Case Western University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Amanda Paine

Posted on March 5, 2015

Jovan Kamcev Wins Advanced Membrane Technology Poster Competition in Italy

Jovan Kamcev, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and teaching assistant, recently won first place in an advanced membrane technology poster competition hosted in Siracusa, Sicily, Italy by the Engineering Conferences International (ECI) program.

Approximately forty students from twenty countries participated in the competition. Kamcev’s winning poster, entitled “Predicting Ion Sorption and Transport in Ion-Exchange Membranes” describes part of his research on the understanding of ion and water transport across charged polymers, and the development of structure/property rules that guide the preparation of high performance membranes for water purification and energy generation applications.

“One of the greatest challenges facing our society is obtaining adequate and sustainable supplies of energy and water. Membrane technologies provide energy-efficient ways to help mitigate some of these issues,” said Kamcev.

Kamcev is supervised by Professor Benny Freeman, the Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering, and Professor Donald Paul, the Ernest Cockrell Sr. Chair in Engineering.

Jovan is a member of the Center for Layered Polymeric Systems (CLiPS), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center including UT Austin and led by Case Western University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Jovan Kamcev

Posted on March 5, 2015

Ni Yan received International Congress on Membranes and Membrane Processes (ICOM) Student Travel Award

Congratulations to Ni Yan for receiving ICOM 2014 Student Travel Award.  This award was issued by the North American Membrane Society (NAMS).  The ICOM Student Travel Award supports outstanding graduate students in the membrane science and technology area and provides up to $1,500 in reimbursement for reasonable expenses for attending the 2014 ICOM meeting in Suzhou, China, to present their research (oral or poster presentation).  The title of Ni’s ICOM presentation was “Effect of processing conditions on transport property/morphology relationships in membranes based on sulfonated styrenic pentablock copolymers.”

Zhengwang He received poster award at International Congress on Membranes and Membrane Processes (ICOM)

Congratulations to Zhengwang for receiving a poster award at ICOM 2014.  The title of her poster presentation was “Profiling Fouling Propensity in Constant Permeate Flux Crossflow Microfiltration Based on Membrane-Model Foulant Interaction”.  The award recognizes excellent poster presentations at the 10th International Congress on Membranes and Membrane Processes. There were 30 presenters awarded out of more than 500 poster presentations.

Qiang Liu was named the Teaching Assistant of the Year in Chemical Engineering Department

Qiang Liu has been named TA of the Year for his work on CHE 317 in 2013 and is being awarded the Paige H. and J. Jeff Weidner Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Chemical Engineering.

This is what some of Qiang’s students had to say about him:

“The TA was amazing. He went out of his way to make sure our assignments were returned back to us on time, and he made sure that we were well prepared for class. He explained the concepts clearly, and was very receptive to questions even when a student was asking about something that was previously explained.” 
“Qiang went above and beyond as a TA. He was always very quick to respond to emails and questions with a thorough knowledge of the subject.  His recitation sessions were helpful and informative, and he seemed thoroughly interested in our progress. Best TA I have had at UT.”

“Qiang was awesome – he helped me better understand the material and he clarified many points.  I feel that he really enjoyed teaching . . . I feel really lucky to have had him as a TA. He helped make 317 an enjoyable subject.” 

Qiang has extended his outstanding teaching skills and interests beyond this class. He also regularly teaches science to preschoolers at the Austin Children’s Museum and is involved in the Ridgetop Middle School Science Club.  During summer 2014, he taught a week-long polymer science course to several high school students before they started summer research.

We congratulate Qiang Liu, and thank him for his commitment to teaching.

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.