Background

Membrane Research has traditionally been divided between biological and synthetic membrane studies. Rarely do researchers in these two areas collaborate, leading to diminished exchange of scientific findings. Many experts agree that new breakthroughs in membrane science and technology will require integrative efforts and synergy of both biological and synthetic membrane experts, i.e., a new generation of membranes that incorporates that properties of selectivity and specifically (common to biological membranes) and the resilience and manufacturing capabilities of synthetic membranes is needed to markedly enhance the applicability of membranes.
 
The Center of Membrane Sciences was established to foster multidisciplinary research on biological and synthetic membranes and their interface. The center provides scientific and technological leadership and facilities to develop basic research in a new generation of membranes and to promote partnerships fundamental to knowledge - and technology transfer.
 
STRENGTHS OF THE PROGRAM
 
As one of only a small number of academically based Centers of Membrane Science, the UK center has already received international recognition as a focal point of research among biological and synthetic membrane experts. The center faculty from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Pharmacy, Agriculture, Medicine, and Human Environmental Systems comprise multidisciplinary research teams who combine to develop new areas of integrative membrane research and to respond to intriguing challenges of membrane sciences and technology.
 
The center's strengths in the interface of biological and synthetic membranes are bolstered by the availability of diverse state-of-the-art research equipment and facilities for the fabrication and characterization of a new generation of membranes.
 
POSSIBLE INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS
 
Research activities deal with a wide spectrum associated with biological, synthetic, and specialized biofunctional membranes, including membrane structure-function relationships, low-pressure reverse osmosis membranes, pollution control, biosensors, separations, enzyme-based reactive membranes, membrane-based synthesis of radiopharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals, microspheres, liposomes, drug-delivery systems, polymer chain interactions, polymer-substrate interactions, protein absorption to polymeric surfaces, food preservation, farm animal reproduction, renal physiology, and neurochemical basis of behavior. Structural studies employ high field NMR, ESR, ATR-FTIR, and dielectric relaxation spectroscopy, among others, and use a Langmuir-Blodgett film balance. These projects will have great impact on the development of ongoing and emerging technologies.
 
WORK IN PROGRESS
 
Projects underway include:
  • synthesis and characterization of synthetic and biofunctional membranes, e.g., entities in which a protein, enzyme, or biological molecule has been attached to a synthetic polymeric matrix cast in the form of membranes
  • studies to relate the structure of the biological molecule and the synthetic microstructure to the function of the biofunctional membranes.
  • low-pressure RO membranes for pollution control, water purification, and study of organic-polymer interactions
  • biofunctional membranes for biosensors, reactive membranes, synthesis of radiopharmaceuticals and high-value added specialty chemicals, and membrane-based affinity membranes for selective purification of biotechnology-engineered specialty proteins
  • transport across biological and synthetic membranes drug-delivery systems, microsphers; liposomes biofouling food preservation, farm animal production, transmembrane signaling, neurochemistry, kidney physiology and ophthalmology involving biological membranes.

 

FACILITIES
 
State-of-the-art equipment for membrane research includes hollow-fiber spinning and continuous sheet casting facilities, high-field NMR, ESR, and fluorescence spectrometers, gamma camera, neutron sources, ATR-FTIR, TRIM, micropipette aspiration, adhesion measurements, fluorescence microscopes, computer-controlled HPLCs, pore-volume analyzers, computer-controlled fermenter, polymer dielectric relaxation and dynamics equipment. In addition, UK Shared-Use facilities involving supercomputers, electron microscopy, materials characterization, and cell sorters are available.