Andrew Colburn

Chemical engineering Ph.D. student Andrew Colburn, currently supported by the NSF KY EPSCoR (Membrane Pillar) program,and by Southern co,  grew up in  Calvert City, Kentucky where he was an avid reader who very much liked history. In high school he was in advanced math/chemistry/physics, classes which stimulated his interest in science. He was a part of the academic team and participated in Science Olympiad throughout high school. His interest in Chemical Engineering became apparent to him probably due to the industries located in Calvert City, KY, such as Ashland, Evonik Industries, West Lake Chemical, and Air Products. Andrew got involved in membrane research in his senior year here at UK Chemical Engineering. Andrew has presented his research at the 2013 and 2014 North American Membrane Society (NAMS) annual conferences, and additionally, in 2015 he was one of three plenary speakers at the Kentucky Water Resources Annual Symposium in Lexington, KY. He has more plans to present his research and has already submitted an abstract to present at the 25th Annual NAMS meeting this June in Boston, MA. Other conferences in his future plans are the 2015 Kentucky EPSCoR Annual Conference in Lexington, KY and the 2015 AIChE annual meeting in Salt Lake City, UT. Andrew’s description of his research is as follows:

My research in Dr. Bhattacharyya’s group, focuses on the development and implementation of membranes for selectively removing dissolved solids from water. In industry water does not need to be drinking quality to be reused in the process. Therefore membranes can be developed to partially remove salts and other dissolved solids from water so it can be reused with less energy cost than dense reverse osmosis membranes. We are partnering with Nanostone-Sepro membranes to develop and test full-scale membrane modules under real conditions. We are also studying the effects on scaling, the adhesion of solid crystals on membrane surfaces that reduces membrane performance. With the support of the Southern Company we are working to reuse scrubber water in coal-fired power plants, removing heavy metals such as selenium. In the future this technology may play an important role of achieving zero-liquid-discharge for industrial operations.

We are also looking to functionalize the surface of membranes to give them enhanced properties. Currently we are working to bond graphene quantum dots (jointly with Dr. Kim’s group in Chemistry), layers of graphite one atom thick and between 3 to 10 nanometers in diameter, to the surface of membranes. We hope that these quantum dots will make the membrane more useful for metal capture, adsorption and degradation of organic pollutants, and the creation of a non-fouling or even self-cleaning membrane surface.


Andrew S. Colburn, Noah Meeks, Steven T. Weinman, and Dibakar Bhattacharyya, 2016 "High Total Dissolved Solids Water Treatment by Charged Nanofiltration Membranes Relating to Power Plant Applications" I&EC Research Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research - PUBLISHED.