Seth Pedersen, second-year graduate student in civil and environmental engineering, won first place in the Student Poster Competition, Liquid Processes Category, at the 2018 North American Membrane Society (NAMS) annual meeting.
‚ÄúI was pretty surprised,‚ÄĚ he said of the award, which included a $200 prize. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs encouraging and provides some extra motivation for research going forward.‚ÄĚ
Advised by Dr. Qilin Li, Pedersen works on membrane distillation for water recovery, the specific application being water recovery from urine for long-term space missions.
The impact of the work is substantial. Current techniques can only remove 85% of the water from urine before mineral scaling and solute precipitation start to clog the mechanical components of the distillation system used. Pedersen‚Äôs technique is shown to work well in dealing with such concentrated brines.
‚ÄúWe are improving the membranes so that they are more resistant to scaling,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúHopefully we can get a higher water recovery rate, somewhere in the greater than 90% range.‚ÄĚ
Water reuse is vital on long-term space missions for two reasons: one, water is, of course, scarce in outer space, and two; the cost of such missions rises with every drop added to the cargo hold.
‚ÄúThe folks at NASA talk about the amount of water you have to take on missions in terms of ‚Äėelephants‚Äô because it‚Äôs so heavy and launch costs go up with weight,‚ÄĚ Pedersen said. ‚ÄúSo this is a cool application. Thinking about the work I do possibly enabling these missions is kind of exciting.‚ÄĚ
NAMS is a professional society that promotes all aspects of membrane science and technology. Pedersen said the meeting is a small conference for a niche community, which made the experience even more valuable.
‚ÄúWhen you present your work at this poster session, talk to other people interested in your work, and get feedback and suggestions of things you haven‚Äôt thought of before ‚Äď that‚Äôs interesting to explore.‚ÄĚ