Shao-Hsiang (Joe) Hung, a PhD student in the lab of Chemical Engineering Professor Jessica Schiffman, is one of four recipients nationally to accept prestigious $11,750 fellowships from the American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA) and the Bureau of Reclamation. The fellowships reward recipients for undertaking cutting-edge research to support membrane-technology innovations in the water, wastewater, or water reuse industries.
Hung is a graduate research fellow studying fabrication of polyelectrolyte membranes via sustainable aqueous phase separation in the Schiffman lab. He earned his BS and MS degrees in Chemical Engineering from the National Taiwan University (BS) and UMass Amherst (MS).
As Schiffman says about Hung, “Based on my observations, I am confident that Joe will be a highly successful graduate student and professional beyond his graduation from my lab; I look forward to Joe's future successes.”
Hung's research focuses on developing a mechanistic understanding of how to manufacture chemically robust, high-flux membranes from polyelectrolytes, water, and salt and evaluate their stability, flux, and fouling resistance.
As Hung explains about the research he is conducting under Schiffman’s guidance, “Polymeric membranes fabricated from non-solvent-induced phase separation are widely used in large-scale membrane-based separations, from the production of clean drinking water to kidney dialysis.”
However, the non-solvent-induced phase separation process relies heavily on unsustainable and toxic aprotic organic solvents, which need to be removed and require expensive recycling units for human health concerns and due to strict environmental legislation.
According to Hung, “This work will focus on a new sustainable method of fabricating membranes that does not rely on the use of organic solvents.” Instead, the process is based on polyelectrolytes, which are “polymers that have positive or negatively charged repeating units that are soluble in water.”
As Hung concludes, “Being able to manufacture chemically robust separation membranes with a range of pore sizes using the aqueous phase separation process without the use of any toxic solvents will be further investigated for a range of applications that require separations.”
As a consequence of Hung’s research, all the applications that he studies should benefit greatly from this non-toxic, sustainable manufacturing process.
According to an AMTA/Reclamation press release, “Innovations in membrane technology have significant potential to reduce the cost, energy, and environmental impact of advanced treatment, yielding clean, safe, abundant, and cost-effective water supplies in arid western states and across the United States.” (August 2022)