Paper earns American Chemical Society ‘Editors’ Choice’ designation

Geoffrey M. Geise, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering, and his students Hongxi Luo, Kevin Chang and Kevin Bahati, have published research describing a strategy for increasing the effectiveness of desalination to purify water. The paper has been selected as an American Chemical Society Publications Editors’ Choice article, a feature that “offers free public access to new research of importance to the global scientific community.”

The research, titled “Engineering Selective Desalination Membranes via Molecular Control of Polymer Functional Groups,” centers on improving the selectivity of membranes used in the desalination process. The approach is based on controlling chemical functional group position within the polymer that is used to make the desalination membrane.

Luo and Chang, a UVA Engineering Volkswagen Group of North America Fellow, are studying for Ph.D. degrees. Bahati, a fourth-year chemical engineering major, participates in the Undergraduate Student Opportunities in Academic Research program, known as USOAR, and was recently named an American Chemical Society Scholar. All three students are members of the Geise Research Group. In addition to the students’ funding, their research received support from Geise’s National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

“The paper establishes a fundamental scientific relationship between chemical structure details and desalination performance properties,” Geise said, explaining that polymer science is advancing to the point where it is becoming increasingly reasonable to control polymer structure at the molecular level.

“While this capability is not currently used to make desalination membranes, it is likely that it will be in the future,” Geise said. “As material manufacturing becomes increasingly precise, the field will likely be able to prepare membranes from polymers where the molecular structure is very precisely controlled. Our paper provides a first look at how one might leverage that capability to engineer advanced materials that will more effectively purify water.”

Scientific editors of American Chemical Society journals from around the world recommend peer-reviewed articles for the Editors’ Choice designation. Selected research exemplifies the society’s “commitment to improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.”

Geoff Geise with Kevin Chang in lab

Assistant professor of chemical engineering Geoffrey M. Geise (left) and Ph.D. student Kevin Chang