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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Xiao Su Research

Separation Processes, Advanced Materials Design and Process Intensification

Our central research theme explores the supramolecular engineering of electrochemical interfaces, with a focus on molecularly-selective separations, functional materials discovery and process intensification.

Su Research Group Website

Molecularly-selective Separations for Chemical Manufacturing & Resource Recovery

Electrochemical platforms allow for the unique control of surface properties based on voltage and current response, without the need for chemical regenerants or extensive physical processing. However, achieving the degree of molecular selectivity required for specialty manufacturing remains a major challenge – for example, in high-value fields such as pharmaceutical and biochemical industries, or mining recovery. Molecular engineering of specific interactions is central to tuning the affinity of the electrode interfaces towards a variety of components. In addition, integration of process steps through electrochemistry can be crucial to reducing the number of unit steps, minimizing energy usage, maximizing performance and atom efficiency. A central aim of our work is to discover, develop and implement novel concepts of electrochemistry for specialty chemical processing and value-added resource recovery

Electrochemically-mediated Water Purification based on Redox Technologies

Water scarcity, either geographic or due to anthropogenic pollution, affects close to a third of the world population. Efficient, affordable and robust technologies are needed for a range of water accessibility contexts, from point-of-source treatment to remote in-situ purification devices. A core challenge consists in the removal of highly toxic contaminants, in ultra dilute concentrations and in the presence of competing species. Current electrode materials, which rely purely on electrostatic effects, cannot discriminate specific ions, and often drift beyond the aqueous stability window. We aim to circumvent these limitations by leveraging single-site Faradaic processes, which through electron transfer, offer a reversible chemical handle for specificity and overpotential control. Our main focus is the discovery, development and optimization of new materials chemistries and electrochemical systems for water purification, contaminant treatment and remediation.

A Supramolecular Engineering Approach to Molecular Separations: Materials Design, Synthesis and Processing

A key approach will be the molecular-level tuning of electrodes through materials design, synthesis and processing. A first aim will be to create molecularly-selective interfaces that are redox-active, electrochemically-responsive, as well as both mechanically and chemically stable. A second step will be the in-depth understanding of the formation of these materials, the discovery of more efficient pathways for their fabrication, and the control of their nanostructure formation. As such, our efforts will be two-pronged: (i) the guided design, selection and synthesis of the electrochemical active units, and (ii) the nanostructuring and processing of microporous and mesoporous materials for electrochemical applications.

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