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The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the Center author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Center Overview

The Membrane Science, Engineering and Technology (MAST) Center focuses on new membrane materials and processes and their industrial applications. Membranes are made of polymers, inorganic materials, or hybrids of the two. They are used for the separation and purification of chemical compounds, biological molecules, and other process streams. Membranes have broad industrial applications in biomedical, biopharmaceutical, chemical, food, petrochemical, and water purification/wastewater recycle and reuse. The MAST Center provides the expertise, infrastructure, facilities, and a range of state-of-the-art equipment for conducting highly specialized research projects.

The MAST Center mission is to:

  • Provide value for its members through high-quality research, access to facilities and a network of leading faculty. 
  • Provide unique training opportunities for postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate researchers. 
  • Promote membrane research through outreach to universities, industry, and the broader public. 

Industrial separations account for a significant portion of the world’s energy budget. Development of new, more efficient and sustainable separation processes is of tremendous societal benefit. By bringing together membrane manufacturers, users and experts at the research institutions, the MAST Center is uniquely positioned to affect many areas of society in water, energy and health care.

Universities

  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
View Center Website

Center Personnel

Yifu Ding
Center Co-Director
303-492-2036
yifu.ding@colorado.edu

Andrew Zydney
Center Co-Director, Bayard D. Kunkle Chair
814-863-7113
zydney@engr.psu.edu

Kamalesh Sirkar
Center Co-Director
973-596-8447
sirkar@njit.edu

Ranil Wickramasinghe
Center Director
479-575-8475
swickram@uark.edu

Research Focus

The MAST Center provides a unique opportunity to develop new membranes designed for targeted separation of industrial relevance. Its research program is divided into four broad areas:

Biopharmaceutical processing
Membrane-based unit operations are attractive for the purification of human therapeutics, as processing conditions are usually mild and scale-up of modular membrane units is straightforward. The MAST Center has significant expertise in developing advanced ultrafiltration processes, validating clearance of contaminants such as host cell proteins and DNA as well as FDA-recommended model virus particles. The MAST Center is also investigating the use of membrane-based separation processes for the purification of virus vectors, vaccines, and new gene therapies. Other applications of membranes in the biopharma area include microfiltration for use with perfusion bioreactors, membrane filters for sterilizing buffers and final product, and ultrafiltration for concentration and buffer exchange as part of the final formulation.

Chemical separations
Membranes are finding growing applications in non-aqueous phase separations such as the recovery of organic solvents, fractionation of organic chemicals, contaminant removal, and recovery of dissolved solutes from organic phases. Development of new organic solvent resistant membranes is essential for these applications. Other research areas include barrier membranes that could be used as protection against chemical warfare agents. Besides liquid separations, the MAST Center also has significant expertise in membranes for gas phase separations.

Membrane fundamentals
MAST Center focuses on developing new membranes with unique micro- or nanoscale structures and distinctive transport properties for emerging separation processes. In addition, tailoring the surface properties of membranes using advanced surface modification methods enables very fine separations while reducing the rate of membrane fouling, which is one of the critical factors governing the successful commercial application of membrane technology. The MAST Center also focuses on understanding membrane transport and fouling fundamentals using complementary modeling and simulations tools. Leveraging the range of equipment at the four participating universities provides accurate characterization of these new membrane structures.

Water purification
Water is a very valuable natural resource. Recovery, recycle, and reuse of water are essential to meet the increasing societal demands. The MAST Center is investigating emerging membrane technologies for treatment of produced water from oil and gas manufacturing operations as well as the treatment of wastewaters from food or agricultural production processes. MAST Center researchers are developing novel membranes and membrane processes for direct potable reuse of wastewaters. Besides treating agriculture and aquaculture wastewaters, the MAST Center is also focusing on nutrient recovery from wastewaters.