Water pollution affects millions of people worldwide and is a leading cause for public health concern. Specifically, unregulated and emerging pollutants, such as endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are toxic and refractory, which can be challenging to remove via conventional water treatment processes.
Membrane filtration is an efficient and widely used chemical separation and water purification technologies. Yet, the membrane technology suffers from drawbacks such as membrane fouling and inadequate removal of dissolved organic matters, especially for the emerging pollutants mentioned above.
Now, Dr. Wen Zhang’s group at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has designed a novel reactive membrane system with the ability to degrade the emerging pollutants and mitigate membrane fouling.
In their study, Zhang and his Ph.D. student, Wanyi Fu, utilized microwaves as the irradiation source to induce catalytic reactions on membrane surface and enhance pollutant degradation. In contrast to other irradiation such as UV or ultrasonication, microwave is able to pass through industrial membrane filtration housing and enable membrane surface reactions.
This novel technique has been filed as a US patent and the research has been published in the Journal of Membrane Science recently. Zhang’s team is also exploring ways to scale up application of microwave-enhanced membrane filtration technology in drinking water treatment, wastewater treatment and landfill leachate treatment. With more studies, Zhang’s lab soon hopes to demonstrate the feasibility of microwave-enhanced membrane filtration outside the lab for point-of-use (POU) water treatment devices for safe drinking water.
“There are challenges remaining in using the conventional treatment technologies for emerging pollutants treatment,” said Dr. Wen Zhang, “so we need to design next-generation membrane techniques, which may integrate reactions into physical membrane separation.”
Zhang’s lab is now working on different types of reactive membrane systems: UV-based photocatalytic reactive membrane, electro-chemical membrane and microwave-enhanced membrane filtration, which demonstrate high potential for efficient removal of emerging pollutants and low-cost membrane operations.
About Dr. Wen Zhang
Wen Zhang is an associate professor of Newark College of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Wen is a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) registered in the States of New Jersey and Delaware. He is an American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE). His Ph.D. research focused on the environmental fate and transport of engineered nanoparticles, biological interactions, as well as nanomaterial characterization at biological interfaces. After joining NJIT, Dr. Zhang has been carrying out diverse research related to material interfaces and catalysis, including (1) Material characterization at nanoscale using hybrid atomic force microscope (AFM); (2) Environmental behavior and interfacial processes for nanomaterials; (3) Novel catalytic processes for harnessing renewable energy and pollutant degradation; (4) Reactive magnetophoretic separation systems; (5) Reactive membrane filtration for emerging contaminant removal; (6) Colloidal properties and enviornmental/agricultural applications of reactive nanobubbles. For more information, visit www.wenresearch.com.
About Wanyi Fu
Wanyi Fu is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) under the supervision of Dr. Wen Zhang, an associate professor at NJIT and licensed professional engineer. Wanyi received her B.S degree from Central South University in 2011 and M.S. degree from Tsinghua University in 2014. Wanyi Fu's research focuses on nanoscale characterization of polymeric membranes and novel antifouling membrane filtration technologies.