Australian-American Fulbright Commission Mini Symposium

G20 Lecture Theatre
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering | Bld 165
The University of Melbourne


More Information

Cara Jordan

Topic: Synthesis, Characterization and Modelling of Gas Permeation  and Separation Properties of Thermally-Rearranged Polymers

Professor Benny Freeman: Thermally rearranged (TR) polymers have attracted increasing attention for a variety of gas separations applications and are currently under commercial development for On Board Inert Gas Generation (OBIGGS) systems for aircraft fuel tank blanketing. TR polymers can be prepared via thermal rearrangement of solvent-soluble polyimides to insoluble polybenzoxazoles. This study will highlight the genesis of TR polymers as gas separation membranes, discuss structure/property relations, pure and mixed gas permeability studies, including studies of the effect of contaminants on gas separation properties of TR polymers.  

These experimental data are placed into perspective via models, such as the Non-Equilibrium Lattice Fluid model, to describe the fundamentals of gas sorption, diffusion and transport in such materials. Future opportunities for further development of this platform of materials and unanswered fundamental questions regarding these materials will be discussed.

Topic: ­­Membrane Technology for Solar-Driven Carbon Dioxide Reduction

Dr Daniel J. Miller: The scalable production of liquid transportation fuels and commodity chemicals by sustainable reduction of carbon dioxide could reduce dependence on fossil fuels.  Heightened concerns about the effects of atmospheric release of greenhouse gases on the global climate has spurred interest in developing technologies to capture and constructively utilize CO2 from both point source emitters and from the atmosphere.  Photoautotrophic plant life has largely been responsible for maintaining Earth’s atmospheric balance of O2 and CO2.  While plants have developed exquisitely complex photosynthetic pathways to produce their food from sunlight, CO2, and water, synthetic systems capable of photo-driven reduction of CO2 are still in the proof-of-concept stage.  These devices are typically comprised of: a photoabsorber to harvest energy from the sun, a cathode where CO2 is reduced to the desired product, an anode where water is oxidized to O2, an electrolyte, and a membrane capable of permitting ion transport while preventing crossover of oxidation and reduction products.  Fundamental work remains to be done on all of these components.

The membrane plays a crucial role in photoelectrochemical devices for CO2 reduction.  While polyelectrolyte membranes have been the subject of intense study for applications such as ion exchange, fuel cells, and water purification, the membranes for solar fuels devices must satisfy different requirements than membranes for these other applications.  This presentation will discuss property requirements for polymeric membranes used in devices for photoelectrochemical CO2 reduction.  In particular, the relative effects of conductivity and product crossover will be explored.  Recently, new techniques for monitoring multicomponent transport of ions and small organics, such as the products of CO2 reduction, have been developed.  Finally, polymeric platforms used in the synthesis of new anion exchange membranes suitable for solar fuels devices, as well as the transport properties of these membranes, will be discussed.

Drinks will be served from 5:30pm, the symposium will begin at 6:15pm

Speaker Bios

Professor Benny Freeman is the Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.  

He is a professor of Chemical Engineering and has been a faculty member for 28 years.  He completed graduate training in Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, earning a Ph.D. in 1988.  In 1988 and 1989, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Ecole SupĂ©rieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris (ESPCI), Laboratoire Physico-Chimie Structurale et MacromolĂ©culaire in Paris, France.  Dr. Freeman was a member of the chemical engineering faculty at NC State University from 1989 – 2002, and he has been a professor of chemical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin since 2002.  Dr. Freeman’s research is in polymer science and engineering and, more specifically, in mass transport of small molecules in solid polymers.  He currently directs 12 Ph.D. students, 2 postdoctoral fellows, and 3 visiting scholars performing fundamental research in gas and liquid separations using polymer membranes.  His research group focuses on structure/property correlation development for desalination and gas separation membrane materials, new materials for hydrogen separation, natural gas purification, carbon capture, and new materials for improving fouling resistance and permeation performance in liquid separation membranes.

His research is described in more than 400 publications and 23 patents/patent applications.  He has co-edited 5 books on these topics.  He has won a number of awards, including a Fulbright Distinguished Chair (2017), Fellow of the North American Membrane Society (NAMS) (2017), the Distinguished Service Award from the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) (2015), Joe J. King Professional Engineering Achievement Award from The University of Texas (2013), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Clarence (Larry) G. Gerhold Award (2013), Society of Plastics Engineers International Award (2013), Roy W. Tess Award in Coatings from the PMSE Division of ACS (2012), the ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science (2009), AIChE Institute Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology (2008), and the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program Project of the Year (2001).  He is a­ Fellow of the AAAS, AIChE, ACS, and the PMSE and IECR Divisions of ACS.  He has served as chair of the PMSE Division of ACS, chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Membranes: Materials and Processes, President of the North American Membrane Society, Chair of the Membranes Area of the Separations Division of the AIChE, and Chair of the Separations Division of AIChE. He currently serves as Chair of the Admissions Committee for AIChE.

Dr Daniel J. Miller is a staff scientist at the Joint Centre for Artificial Photosynthesis at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA.  

He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Bucknell University (PA) in 2006 and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013 under the supervision of Professors Benny D. Freeman and Donald R. Paul.  While at UT, Dan was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and studied fouling phenomena in surface-modified ultrafiltration membranes.  His present research focus is the development of membranes for solar fuels devices, including the study of small molecule transport through polyelectrolytes.

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