Jeffrey R. McCutcheon, Ph.DAssociate Professor,Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Connecticut
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 (TFC) 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 tailored hollow fiber TFC membrane designed specifically for osmotic applications. Each of these membrane platforms has its own benefits and drawbacks and 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.
Jeffrey McCutcheon is the Al Geib Associate Professor for Environmental Engineering Research and Education in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering 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. Since his appointment in Fall of 2008, he has established a laboratory that has graduated 5 PhD students and currently supports 6 graduate students. His primary research efforts are focused on osmotic processes, including forward osmosis (FO) and pressure retarded osmosis (PRO). His work has resulted in 52 publications, 2 book chapters, 3 pending patents, and dozens 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 co-organized NAMS 2015 in Boston and will be organizing the upcoming Gordon Research Conference on Membranes and Membrane Processes in 2016. He has received a number of 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.
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