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Hydrogels for Sustainable Water Treatment

Event Type
Charles Schroeder
Beckman Institute Room 3269 (3rd Floor Tower Room)
Jul 18, 2024   3:00 pm  
Dr. Devashish Gokhale
Charles Schroeder

Dr. Devashish Gokhale (postdoc, Xiao Su Group) will give a seminar in 3269 Beckman. Dr. Gokhale was a PhD student at MIT with Pat Doyle, where his research focused on development of hydrogels for water treatment and purification.

A major challenge in water treatment today is the elimination of micropollutants, including low-concentration emerging contaminants like PFAS and legacy pollutants like lead. Existing technologies fail to eliminate these contaminants due to their chemical diversity and low concentrations. Hydrogels are an ideal platform for water treatment due to their low cost and high porosity. First, I focus on technologies to sequester micropollutants using hydrogel absorbents. Combining coarse-grained simulations and experiments, we synthesize cross-linked hydrogels bearing multiple functional chemistries that are shown to treat water in environmentally relevant conditions, achieving more rapid contaminant transport than commercial adsorbents, while simultaneously being reusable and more versatile. Next, I present a solution to degrade organic micropollutants, based on binding single-atom iron inside hydrogel microparticles. Iron is used to catalyze a Fenton reaction to oxidize hazardous organic micropollutants into safer small molecules. An appropriate chemistry allows us to implement the Fenton reaction, which normally requires an acidic environment and loses catalyst in the form of sludge, without suffering from these traditional limitations. Finally, I turn to the scale up and application of these technologies in real-world settings. In an academia-industry collaboration, these hydrogels are tuned to treat amino acid fermentation products, selectively removing impurities without eliminating the target amino acid. I present a method for scaling up the manufacturing of our hydrogel materials, and discuss some recent steps taken towards the commercialization of this technology.

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