476216 Structure and Transport in Polymer Membranes for Energy-Efficient Separations
Hee Jeung Oh
(1) Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, College of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
(2) Mcketta Department of Chemical Engineering, Texas Materials Institute, Center for Energy and Environmental Research, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78758, USA
With the world’s population growing rapidly, the need for clean water is greater than ever. Among water purification methods, membrane-based separations draw attention because of their energy efficiency (they do not require an energy-intensive phase-change step as in distillation), small footprint, and ability to eliminate trace contaminants. However, only a few membrane materials and formation methods are used in industry today, and current membranes often do not have adequate efficiency (i.e., selectivity), productivity (i.e., permeability), and chemical stability to be used for all sources of water. To overcome these challenges, new polymer membrane materials and formation methods are needed to precisely tune pore size and pore size distributions and to control chemical stability for better separation performance.
Transport of small molecules and ions through polymer membranes is predominantly controlled by polymer nanostructure. Therefore, morphological control of the membrane structure by tuning chain architecture, synthetic routes, and post-synthesis treatment is a critical aspect of designing membrane systems. My graduate research focused on the water and salt transport properties of ion-containing polymers (sulfonated aromatic hydrocarbons) prepared by a new membrane formation method, i.e., solvent-free melt processing. My postdoctoral research focuses on extending my understanding of a polymer’s physical structure by designing and synthesizing highly-structured polymeric systems and characterizing them (e.g., through X-ray scattering, tomography, scanning transmission electron microscopy). Additionally, these porous, crystalline, and conducting polymers can be used as polymer electrolytes in electrochemical systems and as blood filtering devices for biomedical applications.
My research interests are in understanding the fundamental structure-property relationships of water and salt transport in polymers and composite materials. These interests span disciplines from chemical engineering, chemistry, and materials science. The advancement of the technologies mentioned above is highly dependent on the development of polymer membranes, which selectively permeate only desired components while maintaining chemical stability. My goal is to develop correlations between design, synthesis, structure, and transport properties of polymers for targeting applications in energy-efficient separations, batteries and biomedical devices. Synthetic work will focus on highly-structured polymers such as ion-containing polymers, block copolymers, and random copolymers, and polymer characterization will focus on water purification, electrochemical systems, and biomedical devices.
I believe teaching and mentoring the next generation of scientists is the most satisfying aspect of being in academia. Both in classroom instructions and in a research laboratory, my goal is to help students identify important problems and to arrive at intelligent solutions by teaching critical thinking skills.
My education and experiences have prepared me well to teach both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Chemical Engineering department. Also as a graduate student and a postdoctoral researcher, I have supervised research projects for three undergraduate students and several high school students. Seeing these students succeed has been amazingly rewarding to me, and I am looking forward to continue this mentorship with my future graduate students and post-docs.
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