Cussler Group

Most of the gang at Pieter's wedding

Research

Research in our group centers on thin films, including membranes. Some of the membranes can be used to purify ammonia; others can selectively extract copper; still others can separate oxygen and nitrogen from air.

Work on membrane separations now centers on two topics. In the first, non-selective hollow fibers are used as a structured packing for distillation columns. This packing can increase the number of transfer units in the column by a factor of five. it also avoids the normal constraints of loading and flooding. The key to this success is that the membranes are so permeable that most resistance to mass transfer is in the vapor and liquid being distilled.

The second topic, the antithesis of the first, uses thin films not for separation but for barriers for oxygen and water. Making a typical barrier reactive can extend its effectiveness from a few hours to more than a year. Barriers for oxygen find applications in foods like coffee and fresh fish; barriers for water can increase the life of electronics. All this work falls under the scope of thin films.

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