Materials Innovations for Chemical Separations

Materials Innovations for Chemical Separations

Materials innovation is essential to dramatically accelerate a transition to the clean and sustainable technologies urgently needed to maintain the habitability of our planet. Materials science and engineering will empower this critical transition by enabling researchers to understand and control the properties and behavior of matter down to the atomic scale. These new insights and capabilities support global optimizations of material composition and processing parameters across an exhaustive range of applications, performance metrics, and service conditions.

Key performance characteristics of engineering components often are dictated by the intrinsic properties of their constituent active materials. In these many cases the crucial development challenge for achieving the game-changing forward technology leaps currently needed to sustain human health and the Earth’s biosystem is to design, optimize, and manufacture superior new materials to maximize the performance envelopes of critical technologies. 

This lecture will address the impact of materials design in selected representative applications. We will highlight our recent work on understanding the properties of novel resilient nanofiltration membranes aimed at improving the efficiency of the industrial chemical separation processes responsible for 15% of all global CO2 emissions. 

In one application example, the development of a novel graphene-oxide based membrane will be described, from its inception as an idea using purely computational approaches, to the tight integration of experiment and simulation to accelerate initial laboratory prototypes, to the scale-up and commercialization of the material, now in pilot plants in the pulp & paper industry.

In another application example, the design of nano-porous silicon membranes will be discussed. In this case, overcoming the challenge of controlled nanoscale synthesis began with experimental innovation. Those early breakthroughs led to computational design that in turn led to the commercialization of the membranes, which could dramatically reduce the cost and number of steps in battery recycling.

Jeffrey Grossman
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Jeffrey C. Grossman is the Department Head of Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Morton and Claire Goulder and Family Professor in Environmental Systems.