Materials development and fabrication methods for desalination systems are largely empirical and heuristic[i],[ii], failing to fully leverage molecular-level structure-property relationships in the design of interfaces, bulk materials, or 3D material architectures, and component designs. This heuristic approach can lead to long materials development cycles; materials innovations that are disconnected from process constraints; and single-attribute optimization of materials systems or components for either performance, robustness, or manufacturability[iii]. Radical improvements in desalination system performance are possible by leveraging new computational and experimental tools for predictive simulations, rapid screening, and multi-objective optimization of materials functionality. In doing so, we will focus desalination materials research on high-value-proposition materials innovations.
The objectives of the materials and manufacturing R&D topic area are to (1) develop new high-throughput gradient synthesis and computational simulation and screening tools to accelerate the materials discovery and design process for water desalination; (2) advance manufacturing technology and metrology to accelerate the adoption of new materials in water desalination systems; and (3) characterize materials performance in operando to enhance the scientific understanding of their basic function, operation and relationship between their physicochemical properties and performance in desalination systems.
We will draw on state-of-the-art high-throughput computational tools, experimental facilities, sensing platforms, and manufacturing demonstration facilities at DOE national labs, DOE Basic Energy Science Energy Frontiers Research Centers (EFRCs), National Science Foundation Engineering Research Centers (ERCs)and other unique resources in the NAWI network. R&D in these new materials will be validated under realistic conditions in industrially relevant, integrated systems and provide data or other information in coordinated interface tasks and activities with other topic areas in the Hub.
[i]Jay R. Werber, et al., Materials for next-generation desalination and water purification membranes, Nature Reviews Materials, 1, 16018 (2016)
[ii] DOE Office of Science, Basic Research Needs Workshop on Energy and Water, 2017; https://science.energy.gov/~/media/bes/pdf/reports/2017/BRN_Energy_Water_rpt.pdf
[iii]Boretti, Albert, et al., Outlook for graphene-based desalination membranes, npj Clean Water 1.1 (2018): 5.