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Highlight Seminar Series: Chinedum Osuji, University of Pennsylvania

Date: March 25, 2021

Time: 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Location: Virtual seminar

Next-generation Nanostructured Membranes and their Potential Impact in Food, Energy and Water Systems

Speaker: Chinedum Osuji

Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Pennsylvania

Membrane processes are key components of the industrial landscape, and their importance is only expected to grow in coming years. This growth is fueled by a desire to extract greater energy efficiencies in existing industrial and consumer settings, as well as to enable new technologies and devices. In the chemical industry, the high energy intensity of traditional (i.e. thermal) separation processes (cf. distillation) is motivating efforts to develop and deploy practical membrane-based alternatives that offer a lower energy footprint. Likewise in water treatment operations, the recognition that low pressure nanofiltration (NF) can serve as a replacement in some scenarios for more energy intensive reverse osmosis is driving rapid growth of NF water purification membranes. New efforts to design water purification and gas-separation membranes with improved selectivity offer also offer potentially significant energy savings relative to current state of the art membranes. In this regard, considerable attention has been directed towards the development of membrane materials that can overcome the selectivity-permeability tradeoff that is intrinsic to the operation of membranes currently in use in a wide variety of settings. This presentation describes recent progress towards the realization of “next-generation” membranes that are relevant in the aforementioned, and other, contexts. We address developments in nanostructured membranes fabricated from self-assembled materials that are highly compelling as they circumvent the limitations of pathway tortuosity and size-dispersity of transport-regulating features found in conventional membranes. We focus attention on the ability to fabricate such membranes using scalable processes that can be adapted to industrial settings. The performance of these emerging membranes in lab-scale testing suggests that they may be viable in several applications where tight regulation of the transport of molecular and ionic species is desired.

Chinedum Osuji received his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from MIT in 2003 for studies of structure-property relationships and self-assembly of liquid crystalline block copolymers. From 2003-2005, he was a senior scientist at Surface Logix Inc. where he worked on soft lithography. From 2005-2007 Osuji was a postdoctoral associate in applied physics at Harvard University where he studied shear-induced structure and dynamics of colloidal gels. From 2007-2018, he was on the faculty at Yale University in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. In 2018, he joined the University of Pennsylvania, where he is currently a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and serves as an associate editor for the journal Macromolecules. He leads an experimental research group focused on structure and dynamics of soft materials and complex fluids. Topics of interest include structure-property relationships in ordered soft materials, directed self-assembly of block copolymers and other soft mesophases or molecular materials, and rheology and slow dynamics of disordered systems.

Osuji is a fellow of the American Physical Society, and a recipient of a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (2008) and the 2010 Arthur Greer award of Yale College. He received an Office of Naval Research’s Young Investigator award and a 3M Nontenured Faculty award in 2012. He is the recipient of the Dillon Medal of the American Physical Society (2015), the Hendrick C. Van Ness Award (2019), and the Nano Research Young Investigator Award (2019).

2020/2021 Highlight Seminar Series line-up