Related publications: MRS Communications (2022)

Another emerging desalination technology is based on forward osmosis (FO), which uses a draw solution to drive water flux across a membrane. However, separation of the draw from the permeate water requires significant amounts of energy, and this has limited the applicability of FO thus far. To address this, we are developing thermally responsive draw solutes based on ionic liquids (IL) and photo-thermal converters to efficiently harness the solar spectrum. We are also exploring IL mixtures and thermal regeneration pathways with fast kinetics for this liquid-liquid phase separation. This in turn enables the use of solar heat for the water-draw separation process via direct radiative heating to yield fresh water.

Related publications: Environmental Science & Technology (2021)

photo thermal converters

Air conditioning systems currently account for approximately 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, due to the refrigerants and electricity needed to provide dehumidification and cooling. These emissions are projected to increase significantly as countries begin to adopt air conditioning more heavily. To address this, we are researching a new air conditioning cycle that uses phase separation in lower critical solution temperature (LCST) mixtures to provide both dehumidification and cooling. The cycle is powered by low-grade heat, allowing for the use of sustainable energy sources like solar or waste heat, and the cycle uses no greenhouse gas refrigerants. Our work on this “LCST cycle” spans all the way from fundamental thermodynamic analyses to experimental demonstrations.

Related publications: Energy Conversion and Management (2022)

Carbon-Negative Engineered Wood for Structural & Thermal Insulation Applications

Building materials (embodied carbon) and energy use (operational carbon) account for 47% of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. These building-related emissions are projected to rise unless significant efforts to decarbonize buildings occur. To address this problem, I am developing carbon-sequestering engineered wood composites to replace traditional carbon-intensive building materials like steel and concrete. Specifically, I am designing structural insulated panels (SIPs), which yield higher strength and insulating performance than traditional building materials. SIPs are typically manufactured using oriented strand boards (OSBs) comprised of wood chips bonded with carcinogenic adhesives (formaldehyde-based) and petroleum-derived insulation in their foam core. I am developing alternate bio-based adhesives for the OSB and natural fiber-based thermal insulation foam core that poses no health risks and sequesters CO2

Previous Projects

thermal energy conversion

polymer and hybrid

renewable hyd