José Carlos Díaz, PhD student in the U-M Department of Chemical Engineering, has received a National Water Research Institute AMTA Fellowship for Membrane Technology. The fellowship supports research projects that advance membrane technologies in the water, wastewater, or water reuse industries.
The vision of the American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA) is to solve water supply and quality issues through the widespread application of membrane technology. The $10,000 fellowship supports one year of the recipient’s research.
“I am grateful to receive one of this year’s two NWRI/AMTA fellowships,” said Díaz. “This award will afford me the freedom to explore new areas in my project on ion transport in charged polymer membranes and help carve a path to the large-scale commercialization of electrochemical-based technologies for sustainable and affordable water desalination.”
Díaz will research the properties of charged polymer membranes that influence the transport of ions in membrane capacitive de-ionization (MCDI).
“Membrane capacitive de-ionization (MCDI) is a promising membrane-based technology for treating non-traditional water resources such as brackish water, seawater, and wastewater,” he said. “However, these systems have not been widely commercialized due to intrinsic material design limitations and cost of the membranes used for such applications.”
MCDI systems are composed of charged polymer membranes situated on porous carbon electrodes. As saline water flows between the electrodes, an electric field is used to drive ions of different charges across the selective membranes from the saline water feed to the porous electrodes, leaving behind purified water.
“The charged polymer membranes, commonly known as ion-exchange membranes (IEMs), have covalently attached (fixed) charged groups. These fixed charges endow the membranes with high permselectivity – the capacity to reject like-charged ions (co-ions) while permeating ions of the opposite charge (counter-ions),” said Díaz. “Understanding how the membrane chemical and physical properties influence ion transport in IEMs is critical for developing the next generation of IEMs for MCDI and other electrochemical desalination technologies.”
A central objective of the study is to synthesize inexpensive IEMs with high charge densities and varying water content and study their ion transport properties when contacted with highly concentrated salt solutions. The results of this study will allow the discovery of design parameters to synthesize IEMs for applications in brine management and heavy metal and toxic pollutant removal using MCDI.
Jose Carlos Díaz is a PhD student in U-M ChE and a member of the Kamcev Lab. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2019. Díaz is a past recipient of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRFP) and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship in 2020. Díaz is also one of the outreach directors for the Chemical Engineering Graduate Society and a graduate student representative in our department’s DEI Steering Committee.
NWRI is a nonprofit corporation based out of California. It was established in 1991 to instigate cooperative research for addressing issues of water supply and quality. This mission extends to drinking water, wastewater, and freshwater and oceanic environments.
AMTA was originally founded under the name of the National Water Supply Improvement Association in 1973. Like NWRI, their mission focuses on research for safe drinking water, wastewater management, and protecting marine environments. AMTA seeks to achieve these goals through the widespread use of membrane technology.