University of Oklahoma
Freshwater use is one of the fundamental dimensions of the Planetary Boundaries framework. Addressing the inextricably linked water-energy-food security nexus is critical to promote societal stability and global sustainability. Despite intensive efforts, access to safe drinking water and nutrients is still at risk due mainly to exposure to toxic heavy metals found in various water streams and food webs. Heavy metals, released from geochemical cycles and anthropogenic activities, have posed major threats to environmental ecosystems and caused severe adverse effects to living species on Earth. Simultaneously, they are valuable sources of critical materials if being valorized effectively from the wastewater streams. Flexible platform technologies for efficient removal and/or recovery of trace amounts of these ions from water at low operational, energetic and environmental costs are thus essential. Adsorption- and membrane-based technologies promise to provide more efficient and economical separation solutions which are then applicable at large scale for sustainable water and energy. Meanwhile, an advanced understanding of molecular behaviors and transport mechanisms across material interfaces is crucial. The presentation will discuss our initial efforts in advancing adsorbents and membranes for precision separations of metal ions from the water environment, and in unraveling their corresponding structure-performance relationships.