A project led by Assistant Professor Jovan Kamcev was recently awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI) as one of 12 projects that aim to improve the energy efficiency of desalination and water reuse technologies across the country.
Kamcev’s project, a collaboration with Professor Menachem Elimelech at Yale and Veolia Water Technology and Solutions, focuses on developing selective ion-exchange membranes for electrodialysis pretreatment of brackish water.
“I am grateful for the financial support from DOE and NAWI. This project has the potential to alleviate water scarcity problems in the United States by substantially improving water desalination technologies such as electrodialysis and reverse osmosis,” Kamcev said. “I am very excited to get started on this project!”
Currently, the use of brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO) for water desalination is limited due to soluble salts that can plug membranes during a process called scaling. Selectively removing the scale-forming salts before they reach the reverse osmosis membrane will enable recovery of as much desalinated water as possible and therefore minimize brine waste.
Electrodialysis is a promising technology for selective removal of ions from water, but current state-of-the-art ion-exchange membranes have insufficient selectivities for this application. Kamcev and collaborators will develop a novel ion-exchange membrane technology to facilitate scale-forming salt removal and significantly increase water recovery of BWRO.
The 12 projects selected by DOE and NAWI will receive a total of $9 million to drive decarbonization of the water and wastewater sectors through innovative technologies to treat, use and recycle water to bolster a circular economy and provide the U.S. with climate-resilient, cost-effective water supplies.
This year, Kamcev received an NSF CAREER Award to study interactions that govern ionic selectivity and conductivity of ion-exchange membranes and additional funding from the Bureau of Reclamation Desalination and Water Purification Research Program to collaborate with industrial partner SUEZ to accelerate the development of membranes for brine treatment.
He is also a recipient of the North American Membrane Society Young Membrane Scientist Award and the U.S. Department Of Energy Early Career Research Award. His research aims to develop next-generation polymeric materials for water treatment, energy storage and energy generation applications.