Arkansas researchers join NSF membrane collaboration

Grants totaling US$ 900,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and industry partners has enabled University of Arkansas (UA) engineering researchers to join the Membrane, Science, Engineering & Technology Center, a multi‑campus collaboration supported by the NSF.

The center is focused on developing materials for energy production, water treatment, pharmaceutical purification and chemical processing. Other researchers have come from the University of Colorado and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Ranil Wickramasinghe, professor of chemical engineering at UA, will focus on membrane separations, which include water treatment, wastewater recovery and reuse, and bioseparations for the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals. The center’s expertise in membrane separations will enhance its research mission and emphasis on industry participation.

Wickramasinghe has developed two approaches to prevent membrane fouling. One method is to induce mixing on the surface of the membrane to keep the particles moving around to prevent them settling to block the membrane’s pores. Another approach is to modify the surface of the membrane with chemicals which can repel the contaminants.

The funding includes US$ 300,000 over five years from the NSF, as part of its nationwide Industry & University Cooperative Research Program, and a total of US$ 600,000 over three years from four industry partners.