Developing a membrane and thin film synthesis and characterization

Purpose and Goal

The purpose of this project was to develop a membrane and thin film synthesis and characterization laboratory to support the bio-engineering concentration in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

The goal of the project was to develop a state-of-the art Membrane and Thin Film Synthesis Laboratory focused on material development, synthesis and characterization for membrane and thin film separation.

 Activity Overview

The past two years, the Nave lab has focused on laboratory renovations as shown in the before and after photos in Figures 1-2, purchase and installation of equipment as shown in Figures 3-5, training of undergraduate and graduate students on proper use of instruments, and development of course materials and lab protocols.

In 2005, the Department of Chemical Engineering was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) HBCU-UP Targeted Infusion Award to develop a Bioengineering concentration as part of the curriculum.  These funds supported curriculum alignment, undergraduate student research support, course development, purchase of small lab grade instruments, and some general recruitment.  The Department successfully petitioned the University to offer the curriculum and has subsequently graduated several students who have selected the Bioengineering concentration option.  This award; however, did not specifically allow for purchase of large-scale instruments, space renovations, or laboratory set-up.  Hence, this award was specifically aimed at supporting a focused aspect within Bioengineering field aligned with the expertise of the faculty in the Department.  Moreover, the protocols developed in this lab and training through hands-on experiments and computer-simulated modules provide students who select the Bioengineering concentration with basic analytical and biological skills necessary for students interested in pursuing industry careers or further graduate study in this area.

A visiting assistant professor (VAP), Dr. Audie Thompson, was hired to assist the PI with the implementation of the project in order to achieve the stated goals and objectives.  Once Dr. Thompson was employed, the project made significant progress in the space renovation, setting up installation appointments, training students on instrument utilization, and co-developing the course modules and lab protocols. See Figure 6.

The laboratory is located in the Gilchrist Engineering building (Room 142 & 143) in the Department of Chemical Engineering. The research focuses on designing, development and characterization of new materials for biological applications including water desalination, bioseparations, targeted drug delivery and biosensors.  The lab utilizes essentially all techniques and approaches of chemical engineering, biochemistry and molecular biology.  For membrane synthesis the lab has a Laurell EDC WS-650-23NPP modular spin processor.  This 650-series EDC system accommodates up to ø150mm wafers and 5″ × 5″ (127mm × 127mm) substrates.  This system has a 12,000 RPM capability with vacuum hold-down and non-vacuum chucks.  There is also a side-by –side temperature controlled diffusion cell for membrane diffusion studies.  Other equipment and instruments membrane characterization and testing are as follows: Innova 3100 water bath shaker, model 30GC lab oven, pH meter, conductivity meter, refrigerator, Innova 4330 refrigerated incubator shaker, Labnet Benchtop centrifuge, IRAffinity-1 Fourier Transform Infrared spectrophotometer Shimadzu, UV-2450 UV-Vis Spectrophotometer, GC-2014 Gas Chromatograph, 6300-AA Atomic Absorption, Distilled water system and Barnstead Nanopure water system.

Activity Outcomes

The project has supported improvements and advancements in the physical infrastructure and academic programming offered by the Department of Chemical Engineering.  Specifically, the funding provided to support this project enabled the department to set-up a Membrane Synthesis and Characterization Laboratory in support of the Bioengineering concentration offered by the Department.  Several pieces of equipment were purchased and made available to undergraduate and graduate student in the College of Engineering increasing their knowledge and abilities in spectroscopy and membrane synthesis and characterization applied to separations of biological mixtures, water purification, biosensors, and targeted drug delivery.

The equipment purchased was also used by the Nave Lab for basic and applied research.  Today, the Nave lab consists of a visiting assistant professor, two graduate students, and three undergraduate students.  Over the past year, the lab has been successful in collecting data that has been presented at regional, national, and internationally conferences.  The lab has three articles in progress for submission to reputable journals for publications.  Using the equipment purchased through this project, the following presentations:

  1. Nave, F. and Thompson, A. (2012) Characterization and Comparison of Hydrogels Anchored with a Tridentate, Tetra dentate and Pent dentate Chelators. Euro membrane Conference (London, England, September 23-27).
  2. **Nyguen, D., Harris, D., Thompson, A., and Nave, F. (2012) Characterization of Thin Film Poly (vinyl alcohol) Hydrogels with Different Immobilized Ligand Groups. North American Membrane Society Annual Conference (New Orleans, LA, June 9-12).
  3. **Masood, Amir, Thompson, A., and Nave, F. (2012) Impact of N- (2-hydroxyethyl) ethylenediamine N-N’-N’-triacetic acid (HEDT) on Properties of Membrane based Immobilized Metal Affinity. TAMUS 2012 Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Symposium (Kingsville, TX, March 22-24). 2nd place
  4. **Kirksey, Venience, Thompson, A., and Nave, F. (2012) Characterizing Solubility in Metal Affinity Hydrogel Membranes with Nitrilotriacetic acid – Nickel. 2012 Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM (Washington, DC, March 22-24).
  5. **Harris, D., Thompson, A., and Nave, F. (2012) Characterization of Mobile Phase Parameters using Hydrogel Membranes with Metal Affinity for Protein Purification 2012 Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM (Washington, DC, March 22-24).


Felecia M. Nave

Associate Professor

Department of Chemical Engineering