NJIT Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering Kamalesh K. Sirkar was awarded a patent today for his water desalination technology. “Desalination Devices and Systems Using Porous Hydrophobic Hollow Fibers and Hydrophobic Porous Coatings” (US Patent Number 8,167,143) discloses membrane devices and methods for direct contact membrane distillation and vacuum membrane. Sirkar is Foundation Professor in Membrane Separations at NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering http://chemicaleng.njit.edu/. To see Sirkar at work, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdTaSrtoqBQ.These devices and systems can recover a larger fraction of water from brine than reverse osmosis, the current industry standard for water desalination. In his research and pilot plant studies, Sirkar has achieved extraordinarily high water vapor fluxes and stable performances from brines with salt concentrations of over 20 percent. Reverse osmosis as currently practiced for seawater desalination does not work when salt content exceeds 6 percent.
This technology has been used successfully to treat sea water collected near the discharge from a nuclear power plant and liquid animal wastes. Additional investigations on other systems are ongoing. The design is robust in terms of handling scaling salts. Membrane distillation can utilize waste heat from a variety of sources, prevent thermal pollution and operate at essentially atmospheric pressure.
Membrane separation processes are used throughout the world by the chemical, food, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to separate purify or concentrate liquid solutions, cellular suspensions or gaseous mixtures. They are also increasingly important in meeting the growing global need for pure drinking water, an application that has been a major focus of Sirkar’s recent research at NJIT. NJIT is also the lead site of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) http://www.nsf.gov/eng/iip/iucrc/ for Membrane Science, Engineering and Technology. The other site is at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Sirkar is the author of 165 refereed journal articles and 19 book chapters, and is a co-editor of the widely used Membrane Handbook. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering. He has also served as the editor of the Elsevier series Membrane Science and Technology and as an associate editor of Separation Science and Technology. He has served (or is serving) on the editorial boards of the Journal of Membrane Science, Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, and Separation Science and Technology. He is the inventor or co-inventor of 28 US patents.
A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sirkar’s many awards and honors include: NJIT 2009 Overseer’s Research Award; Clarence Gerhold Award of the Separations Division of AIChE (2008); the AIChE Institute Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology (2005); and direct mention of him in the Kirkpatrick Award to Hoechst Celanese for his invention of membrane solvent extraction (1991). He is an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers.
He received his PhD and MS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur.