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Award Abstract #1342343

BRIGE: Engineering Antifouling Ultrafiltration Membranes Using Polycationic Nanofibers

Div Of Chem, Bioeng, Env, & Transp Sys
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Initial Amendment Date: August 12, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: August 12, 2013
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Award Number: 1342343
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Alexander Leonessa
CBET Div Of Chem, Bioeng, Env, & Transp Sys
ENG Directorate For Engineering
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Start Date: September 1, 2013
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End Date: August 31, 2015 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $174,321.00
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Investigator(s): Jessica Schiffman schiffman@ecs.umass.edu (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Research Administration Building
AMHERST, MA 01003-9242 (413)545-0698
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Program Reference Code(s): 7715
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Program Element Code(s): 7741



Globally, diarrhea remains the second leading cause of childhood mortality. While membrane-based technologies can effectively diminish this mortality rate, the costs associated with retaining membrane performance prohibits developing countries from maintaining access to safe drinking water. This NSF-BRIGE proposal embarks on a new generation of antimicrobial ultrafiltration membranes that will last longer in operational systems.

Technical Description:

Polysulfone ultrafiltration membranes will be surface functionalized with polycationic/poly(ethylene oxide) nanofiber mats. The nanofiber layer will inactivate a broad-spectrum of microbes via contact with the exposed cationic surface charges. The poly(ethylene oxide) content will render the membrane surface more hydrophilic, and thus, more resistant to microbial attachment. For the polycation, we will investigate the biopolymer chitosan, as well as a synthetic analogue, poly(dimethyldiallylammonium chloride). Ultrafiltration membranes enhanced with nanofibers will be characterized for functionality, biofouling, and their materials properties.

This research will provide critical structure-property relationships between high porosity nanofiber mats applied as a thin-layer on ultrafiltration membranes and their ability to retain high flux and inactivate microbes under operational conditions. These nanostructure-enhanced ultrafiltration membranes hold the potential to impact water quality on a local, national, and global scale by providing safe, high-quality water to local municipals and underdeveloped communities. In addition to improving the functionality and lifetime of membranes for water purification, understanding the materials-biology interface has great implications on the proper functioning of membranes for a broad range of separations, including, beverage clarification, blood filtration/treatment, protein purification, and metal ion recovery.

Broader Signficance and Importance:

From this work, new insights into the manufacturing of low cost, water purification membranes that feature "green" antimicrobials will be acquired. This technology holds the potential to impact water quality on a local, national, and global scale by providing safe, high-quality water to local municipals and underdeveloped communities. The continuous decline in water quantity and quality is a tangible societal impact that makes this project a powerful vehicle for communicating the vital role of STEM disciplines over a broad demographic.

Broadening Participation of Underrepresented Groups in Engineering:

A key component of this project is its aim to educate and mentor a diverse workforce at the emerging interface of chemical engineering, materials science, and environmental engineering. In addition to her on-going efforts, this proposal will result in numerous new research experiences for deaf or hard-of hearing undergraduate students, as well as women and minority undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, the PI will act as the moderator to two new web-based international discussion groups. One will increase access to scientific knowledge globally and the second will provide a safe women-mentorship network to an underserved population of women, those living in remote places where there may not be other women role models. Additionally, the PI will act as the moderator to two new web-based international discussion groups maintained by the Global Materials Network. The first will be a topical forum to increase access to scientific knowledge on "Polymers" globally. The second, will be a "Women in Engineering Discussion Group" that will provide a mentorship network to women in remote locations where there may not be other women role models, an underserved population of women.

This research has been funded through the Broadening Participation Research Initiation Grants in Engineering solicitation, which is part of the Broadening Participation in Engineering Program of the Engineering Education and Centers Division.


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Rieger, K.A.
Schiffman, J.D.. "Electrospinning an Essential Oil: Cinnamaldehyde Enhances the Antimicrobial Efficacy of Chitosan/Poly(ethylene oxide) Nanofibers," Carbohydrate Polymers, 2014. 

Dobosz, K.M., Kolewe, K.W., Schiffman, J.D.. "Green materials science and engineering reduces biofouling: Approaches for medical and membrane-based technologies," Frontiers in Microbiology, v.6, 2015. 


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