Center for Materials for Water and Energy Systems
Synthetic polymer membranes are widely used to purify water, mainly because they are more energy efficient than competing (e.g., thermally-based) technologies. However, water in energy applications is often heavily contaminated with a plethora of diverse organic and inorganic components (e.g., produced water from oil and gas production). Current membranes were not designed (and are unsuitable) for such applications. Basic science knowledge gaps in thermodynamic and kinetic behavior of complex aqueous mixtures at interfaces, and the effect of such mixtures on the interfacial properties, limit our ability to translate fundamental understanding to transformative materials design for energy/water applications. Moreover, current methods for synthesis and precision assembly of novel materials far from equilibrium prevent preparation of membranes for highly selective decontamination or resource recovery from such complex aqueous mixtures.