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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.