DOE News
    Doe Science news source
    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2019-03-28 09:50:19
    • Article ID: 710363

    Illuminating Water Filtration

    Researchers using ultrabright x-rays reveal the molecular structure of membranes used to purify seawater into drinking water

    • Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

      Qinyi Fu, Francisco J. Medellin-Rodriguez, Nisha Verma, and Benjamin Ocko (from left to right) prepare to mount the membrane samples that mimic the membranes used in reverse osmosis for the measurements in the Complex Materials Scattering (CMS) beamline at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II).

    • Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

      The sketch shows how the x-rays hit the membrane at a slight angle and scatter off the surface. They are then captured by a detector that records the so-called scattering pattern of the x-rays that is specific to the membrane's molecular structure. The top left panel shows two different molecular structures, which are also called molecular packing motifs. The results of the measurements suggest that the perpendicular motif (lower right) could be correlated with superior filtration properties.

    UPTON, NY—For the first time, a team of researchers from Stony Brook University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed the molecular structure of membranes used in reverse osmosis. The research is reported in a recently published paper in ACS Macro Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society (ACS). 

    Reverse osmosis is the leading method of converting brackish water or seawater into potable or drinking water, and it is used to make about 25,000 million gallons of fresh water a day globally according to the International Water Association.

    “Most of the earth’s water is in the oceans and only three percent is fresh water, so water purification is an essential tool to satisfy the increasing demand for drinking water,” said Brookhaven Lab senior scientist Benjamin Ocko. “Reverse osmosis is not a new technology; however, the molecular structure of many of the very thin polymer films that serve as the barrier layer in reverse osmosis membranes, despite its importance, was not previously known.”

    The thin polymer barrier layer used in reverse osmosis membrane is semipermeable. Small molecules such as water can cross from one side of the membrane to the other, but other molecules, such as hydrated sodium or chloride ions, cannot cross the barrier layer. This characteristic is what allows these membranes to filter the salt out of saline in order to make drinking water. During a commercial reverse osmosis process, the salty water is pressurized to force the fresh water through the membrane.

    Since the seawater has to be pressed through the membrane, the energy consumption of reverse osmosis facilities is high. To make 100 gallons of fresh water with reverse osmosis, the energy cost is about one kilowatt-hour, the equivalent of running a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours.

    “Even small improvements in the performance of filtration membranes would result in huge energy and cost savings globally,” said Benjamin S. Hsiao, distinguished professor at Stony Brook University. “Therefore, we are looking at the membranes on a molecular level. We want to figure out how molecular structure contributes to highly efficient membranes and use this knowledge to design improved membranes.”

    For these measurements, the team made a well-defined thin polymer film at the oil/water interface using a method called interfacial polymerization, which is similar to the industrial process. Like a two-part epoxy, one of the molecular components is added to the water and the other is added to the oil.  At the interface, where the water and oil touch—like the interface between oil and vinegar in salad dressing—the two molecular components react with each other and create the very thin polymer film.

    “The resulting thin film is only one thousandth of the thickness of a human hair. It is also structurally similar to the thin barrier layer in commercial reverse osmosis membranes, but it is much smoother,” said Francisco Medellin-Rodriguez, a professor at San Luis Potosi Autonomous University in Mexico. “To study these thin films, we need ultrabright x-rays, as well as advanced analytical and simulation tools.”

    By using ultrabright x-rays from the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Brookhaven, the researchers are starting to unravel the relationship between the molecular structure of the membranes and their effectiveness.

    According to Qinyi Fu, a Stony Brook University graduate student and the lead author of the study, “To resolve the molecular structure of the membranes, the team studied the scattering patterns of x-rays using a technique called grazing-incidence wide-angle x-ray scattering at NSLS-II’s Complex Materials Scattering (CMS) and Soft Matter Interfaces (SMI) beamlines.”

    In this technique, the x-rays hit the membrane at a slight angle and scatter off the surface. They are then captured by a detector that records the so-called scattering pattern of the x-rays that is specific to the membrane’s molecular structure.

    “In the scattering pattern, we are able to identify molecular packing motifs: how the neighboring molecules in the polymer are arranged with respect to each other. One is the parallel motif and the second is the perpendicular motif,” said Ocko. “While both packing motifs are present, the perpendicular packing motif is better correlated with optimal filtration properties.”

    Hsiao added, “Our findings also show that the molecular structure is preferentially oriented with respect to the membrane surface. This is rather intriguing and may be related to how the water pathways in the membrane are oriented.”

    More recently, the team has started to study reverse osmosis membranes that are manufactured for commercial water purification systems. The chemicals used to prepare these membranes are the same as those that were used to make membrane films at the oil/water interfaces.

    “The commercial processes are protected by corporate trade secrets and the precise manufacturing conditions are not known,” Ocko said. “Despite this, our findings show that commercial membranes exhibit similar structural properties as the model membranes prepared in our lab at the oil/water interface, including the parallel and perpendicular motifs and preferential molecular orientation.”

    By studying many membrane materials and comparing their x-ray determined structural properties with their filtration characteristics, the scientists expect to develop a detailed structure-function relationship.

    “We hope that this will help the development of more energy efficient membranes for future generations of water filtration systems,” Hsiao said.

    The Stony Brook team was supported by the Polymers Program, Division of Materials Research of the National Science Foundation (DMR-1808690).

    Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

    Follow @BrookhavenLab on Twitter or find us on Facebook.

    • other-fb
    • other-tw
    X
    X
    X
    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions

    Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions

    Pairs of sub-atomic particles may catalyze reactions that happened moments after the Big Bang.

    Scientists hit pay dirt with new microbial research technique

    Scientists hit pay dirt with new microbial research technique

    Long ago, during the European Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci wrote that we humans "know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot." Five hundred years and innumerable technological and scientific advances later, his sentiment still holds true. But that could soon change. A new study in Nature Communications details how an improved method for studying microbes in the soil will help scientists understand both fine-grained details and large-scale cycles of the environment.

    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

    Low-momentum (wimpy) quarks and gluons contribute to proton spin, offering insights into protons' behavior in all visible matter.

    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

    Mirrored D shape demonstrates surprisingly high pressures in a tokamak, indicating a shape change may be in order for next-generation fusion reactors.

    Scientists make first high-res movies of proteins forming crystals in a living cell

    Scientists make first high-res movies of proteins forming crystals in a living cell

    Scientists have made the first observations of proteins assembling themselves into crystals, one molecule at a time, in a living cell. The method they used to watch this happen - an extremely high-res form of molecular moviemaking ­- could shed light on other important biological processes and help develop nanoscale technologies inspired by nature.

    Blue Pigment from Engineered Fungi Could Help Turn the Textile Industry Green

    Blue Pigment from Engineered Fungi Could Help Turn the Textile Industry Green

    A new biosynthetic production pathway developed by scientists at the Joint BioEnergy Institute could provide a sustainable alternative to conventional synthetic blue dye. The highly efficient fungi-based platform may also open the door for producing many other valuable biological compounds that are currently very hard to manufacture.

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Metal-organic frameworks designed with a topology-guided approach show higher efficiency than commercial benchmarks.

    Advanced NMR at Ames Lab Captures New Details in Nanoparticle Structures

    Advanced NMR at Ames Lab Captures New Details in Nanoparticle Structures

    Advanced nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques at the U.S. Department of Energy'sAmes Laboratory have revealed surprising details about the structure of a key group ofmaterials in nanotechology, mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs), and the placement of their active chemical sites.

    Plants' Oil-Production Accelerator Also Activates the Brakes

    Plants' Oil-Production Accelerator Also Activates the Brakes

    UPTON, NY--Scientists studying plant biochemistry at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory recently made a surprising discovery: They found that a protein that turns on oil synthesis also activates a protein that puts the brakes on the same process. In a paper just published in the journal Plant Physiology, they describe how this seemingly paradoxical system keeps oil precursors perfectly balanced to meet plants' needs.

    A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions

    A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions

    Thin-walled diamond shells carry payloads of boron dust; the dust mitigates destructive plasma disruptions in fusion confinement systems.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    John Crane acquires division of Advanced Diamond Technologies, a company built on Argonne technology

    John Crane acquires division of Advanced Diamond Technologies, a company built on Argonne technology

    John Crane, a global provider of engineered products and services headquartered in Chicago, recently completed the purchase of Advanced Diamond Technologies (ADT), Industrial Division. ADT was founded in 2003 through the licensing of technology from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory.

    Energy Department to Invest $32 Million in Computer Design of Materials

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced that it will invest $32 million over the next four years to accelerate the design of new materials through use of supercomputers.

    Demarteau to head ORNL Physics Division

    Demarteau to head ORNL Physics Division

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has named Marcel Demarteau as Physics Division Director, effective June 17.

    PPPL and Oak Ridge manage new DOE program designed to speed development of fusion energy with private-public partnerships

    PPPL and Oak Ridge manage new DOE program designed to speed development of fusion energy with private-public partnerships

    Feature describes PPPL role in innovative DOE program to promote public-private partnerships to speed development of fusion energy.

    ORNL welcomes seven new research fellows to Innovation Crossroads

    ORNL welcomes seven new research fellows to Innovation Crossroads

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory welcomed seven technology innovators to join the third cohort of Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast's only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

    New DOE program connects fusion companies with national labs, taps ORNL to lead

    New DOE program connects fusion companies with national labs, taps ORNL to lead

    The Department of Energy has established the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy program, or INFUSE, to encourage private-public research partnerships for overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.

    Department of Energy Announces $75 Million for High Energy Physics Research

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $75 million in funding for 66 university research awards on a range of topics in high energy physics to advance knowledge of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

    Ames Laboratory names James Morris Chief Research Officer

    Ames Laboratory names James Morris Chief Research Officer

    Dr. James Morris has been named Chief Research Officer at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory. His appointment follows an extensive search and will be effective June 17, 2019.

    Four scientists at PPPL awarded national and international honors

    Four scientists at PPPL awarded national and international honors

    Feature profiles four PPPL scientists who have received high honors.

    Brookhaven's Mircea Cotlet Named a Battelle "Inventor of the Year"

    Brookhaven's Mircea Cotlet Named a Battelle "Inventor of the Year"

    The global science and technology organization Battelle recognized materials scientist Mircea Cotlet of Brookhaven Lab's Center for Functional Nanomaterials for his research in applying self-assembly methods to control the interfaces between nanomaterials and other light-interacting components.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Deep Learning Reveals Mysteries of Deep Space

    Deep Learning Reveals Mysteries of Deep Space

    How do you determine the measurable "things" that describe the nature of our universe? To answer that question, researchers used CosmoFlow, a deep learning technique, running on a National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center supercomputer. They analyzed large, complex data sets from 3-D simulations of the distribution of matter to answer that question. The team showed that CosmoFlow offers a new platform to gain a deeper understanding of the universe.

    Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions

    Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions

    Pairs of sub-atomic particles may catalyze reactions that happened moments after the Big Bang.

    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

    Low-momentum (wimpy) quarks and gluons contribute to proton spin, offering insights into protons' behavior in all visible matter.

    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

    Mirrored D shape demonstrates surprisingly high pressures in a tokamak, indicating a shape change may be in order for next-generation fusion reactors.

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Metal-organic frameworks designed with a topology-guided approach show higher efficiency than commercial benchmarks.

    A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions

    A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions

    Thin-walled diamond shells carry payloads of boron dust; the dust mitigates destructive plasma disruptions in fusion confinement systems.

    Found: New Bismuth Compounds in Well-Known Systems of Two Elements

    Found: New Bismuth Compounds in Well-Known Systems of Two Elements

    Scientists discover an unexpected source of new materials, with potential for energy applications.

    Flowing for Function

    Flowing for Function

    A flowing magnetically responsive liquid seamlessly regulates the shape and properties of solids, letting them perform an array of jobs.

    Superconducting Films for Particle Acceleration

    Superconducting Films for Particle Acceleration

    Researchers demonstrated record accelerating cavity performance using a technique that could lead to significant cost savings.

    Parceling Particle Beams

    Parceling Particle Beams

    Beam chopper cuts accelerator-generated ion beams under highly demanding conditions.


    Spotlight

    ILSAMP Symposium showcases benefits for diverse students, STEM pipeline
    Monday May 20, 2019, 12:05 PM

    ILSAMP Symposium showcases benefits for diverse students, STEM pipeline

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula
    Monday May 13, 2019, 11:05 AM

    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)
    Monday April 29, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories
    Friday April 12, 2019, 03:05 PM

    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    Young Women's Conference in STEM seeks to change the statistics one girl at a time
    Thursday March 28, 2019, 03:05 PM

    Young Women's Conference in STEM seeks to change the statistics one girl at a time

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Students team with Argonne scientists and engineers to learn about STEM careers
    Tuesday March 12, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Students team with Argonne scientists and engineers to learn about STEM careers

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition
    Wednesday February 13, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Equipping the next generation for a technological revolution
    Thursday January 24, 2019, 01:05 PM

    Equipping the next generation for a technological revolution

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science
    Friday January 18, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chasing a supernova
    Friday January 18, 2019, 04:05 PM

    Chasing a supernova

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline
    Tuesday January 08, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices
    Thursday October 11, 2018, 04:00 PM

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Innovating Our Energy Future
    Wednesday October 03, 2018, 07:05 PM

    Innovating Our Energy Future

    Oregon State University, College of Engineering

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab
    Tuesday October 02, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Friday September 21, 2018, 01:05 PM

    "Model" students enjoy Argonne campus life

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce
    Thursday September 06, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
    Tuesday September 04, 2018, 11:30 AM

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    The Gridlock State
    Friday August 31, 2018, 06:05 PM

    The Gridlock State

    California State University (CSU) Chancellor's Office

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson
    Friday August 31, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School
    Friday August 24, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 10:05 AM

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Changing How Buildings Are Made
    Monday August 20, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Changing How Buildings Are Made

    Washington University in St. Louis

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019
    Thursday August 16, 2018, 12:05 PM

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019

    California State University, Monterey Bay

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology
    Friday July 20, 2018, 03:00 PM

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor
    Thursday July 19, 2018, 05:00 PM

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'
    Tuesday July 03, 2018, 11:05 AM

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne welcomes <em>The Martian</em> author Andy Weir
    Friday June 29, 2018, 06:05 PM

    Argonne welcomes The Martian author Andy Weir

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy
    Monday June 18, 2018, 09:55 AM

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy

    Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research
    Friday June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science
    Thursday June 07, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science
    Monday May 07, 2018, 10:30 AM

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)
    Wednesday May 02, 2018, 04:05 PM

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds
    Thursday April 12, 2018, 07:05 PM

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond
    Wednesday March 14, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week
    Thursday February 15, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week

    University of Virginia Darden School of Business

    Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities
    Friday February 09, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities

    California State University, Channel Islands

    Photographer Adam Nadel Selected as Fermilab's New Artist-in-Residence for 2018
    Wednesday January 17, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Photographer Adam Nadel Selected as Fermilab's New Artist-in-Residence for 2018

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

    Fermilab Computing Partners with Argonne, Local Schools for Hour of Code
    Wednesday January 17, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Fermilab Computing Partners with Argonne, Local Schools for Hour of Code

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

    Q&A: Sam Webb Teaches X-Ray Science from a Remote Classroom
    Wednesday December 20, 2017, 01:05 PM

    Q&A: Sam Webb Teaches X-Ray Science from a Remote Classroom

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    The Future of Today's Electric Power Systems
    Monday December 18, 2017, 01:05 PM

    The Future of Today's Electric Power Systems

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Supporting the Development of Offshore Wind Power Plants
    Monday December 18, 2017, 12:05 PM

    Supporting the Development of Offshore Wind Power Plants

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Stairway to Science
    Tuesday October 03, 2017, 01:05 PM

    Stairway to Science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    After-School Energy Rush
    Thursday September 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

    After-School Energy Rush

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach
    Thursday September 28, 2017, 10:05 AM

    Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM
    Thursday September 21, 2017, 03:05 PM

    From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory





    Showing results

    0-4 Of 2215