About the project
World-pressing issues such as climate change and clean water shortage have urged for greener and more sustainable technologies. Membrane technology is an attractive alternative due to its low carbon footprint and versatility. Membranes have been extensively applied in water treatment, seawater desalination and product purifications, and they can potentially offer more efficient solutions in separation processes across various industries. The advancement of membrane materials is critical to opening up significant roles of membrane technology in serving the industry and future sustainability.
This PhD project aims to develop highly selective thin-film composite (TFC) membranes for molecular-level separations, using porous organic frameworks (POFs) for the thin-film layer. POFs, constructed from organic monomers with strong covalent bonds, offer high stability and tunable properties, making them ideal candidates for designing membranes with tailored separation performance. TFC membranes with a POF selective layer will be synthesized using interfacial reaction, an effect and scalable approach for thin-film synthesis. This method involves reactions at liquid-liquid or vapor-solid interfaces, and POF membranes with different structure and properties will be designed and synthesized. The developed membranes will be studied for small molecule (<300 Da) separation in liquid phase, for processes such as organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN) and organic solvent reverse osmosis (OSRO). These processes offer greener alternatives for small-molecule product purification, solvent recycling and organic waste treatment, with potential applications in industries like pharmaceuticals, food, petrochemicals, fine chemicals and electronics.
This is a fully funded 3.5-year PhD studentship ideal for someone with a background in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry or Materials Science, and an interest in materials and separations. The project will have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including both experimental and characterization tools available at the University of Southampton.