Collaborative Research: Enabling Multi-Functional 3D Composite Responsive Separation (3D-CoReS) Membranes with Advanced Materials and Innovative Manufacturing

Grants and Contracts Details


Multilayer thin film structures are spread across many existing and emerging technological areas, such as energy, sensors, flexible electronics, separation materials, among others. However, the manufacture of multilayer heterogeneous composite thin films has largely been left to cumbersome multi-step subtractive approaches and non-scalable trial-and-error approaches, both of which are wasteful and result in significant losses in time, cost, materials, along with the production of several waste products. This is due in part to the lack of understanding related to the scalability of materials and the lack of advanced manufacturing approaches to properly fabricate such thin films with the desired structure, properties, quality and/or functionality. There is a critical need to fill this gap, by advancing scalable manufacturing approaches based on fundamental principles related to coating science and technology, and with sustainability in mind, that will also open pathways for the digitization of this technology. Some of the challenges of processing multiple polymer fluids simultaneously into 3-dimensional (3D) thin film structures include, adhesion of layers, interfacial mixing, wetting phenomena, the onset of defects, among other factors. Each of these are intricately tied to the materials and manufacturing process(es) used during the fabrication process. The world’s drinking water is becoming increasingly unsafe through the growing concentrations of current contaminants and introduction of new contaminants; according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 829,000 people are estimated to die each year as a result of contaminated drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene. One group of contaminants is called per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS). Studies have shown PFAS can cause reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney, and immunological effects, and the most consistent findings include increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer, and thyroid hormone disruption. PFAS are surfactant chemicals with broad uses that are now recognized as being a significant risk to human health because of their environmental persistence and widespread human exposure and toxicity. They are commonly used in household and industrial products. They are extremely persistent in the environment because they possess both hydrophobic fluorine-saturated carbon chains and hydrophilic functional groups, along with being oleophobic. In 2016 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a lifetime health advisory at 70 ng/L for PFAS in drinking water. Currently, there are limited options available for treating PFAS contaminated waters such as activated carbon and ion exchange. Therefore, there is a critical need for safe and efficient remediation methods for PFAS. Furthermore, during filtration, microorganisms that are present in water accumulate of membrane surfaces and form biofilms that cause filtration efficiency and membrane operation life to decrease. The goal of this project is to revolutionize membrane fabrication techniques to make multi-functional 3D Composite Responsive Separations (3D- CoReS) membranes for the simultaneous removal of PFAS substances from water and biofouling control.
Effective start/end date11/1/2110/31/24


  • National Science Foundation: $232,157.00


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