Membranes are rapidly becoming the fastest growing platform for water purification, reuse, and desalination. They are also important for industrial separations, and are being considered for applications involving catalysis and sensing. Biological membranes are an ideal model for synthetic membranes as they possess unique properties such as high transport and high selectivity at levels far beyond what is achievable in current membrane systems. After a short overview of our lab, this talk will discuss the current state of desalination membranes, and then focus on our work in this area. It will discuss our approach to conducting research in this area using two examples. Both examples build on fundamentals, but the first takes a longer term view of the challenges while the second focuses on rapidly implementable innovations that can make step changes in efficiencies of current membranes. The first project discussed will be the development of channel-based membranes that are inspired by biological membranes. It will discuss the project’s emergence from a detailed understanding of the structure-function properties of water channel proteins - aquaporins. The second project will report on the ongoing work in our lab on the development of the first scalable technique to eliminate concentration polarization in solute rejecting membranes. This work is based on understanding and manipulating microscale flows in current reverse osmosis membrane modules.