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August 2019 eNews

Reclamation Awards Dr. Frank Huang Funding from the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Administrative Assistant

Dr. Frank Huang, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, received a 104B seed faculty award, associated with the research grant between US Geological Survey and New Mexico State University in 2006 for his project entitled, Mitigation of Membrane Biofouling by Harnessing Bacterial Cannibalism. This grant is presented to researchers who show great potential and dedication to providing quality information concerning water availability, future consequences of water usage, and responding to water concerns as they arise. Additional funding from Sandia National Labs, and the State of New Mexico also helped pave the way for him to continue his research and provided the groundwork for his membrane experiments to flourish.

Dr. Huang’s research on membranes from 2005-2010 investigated several different properties (occurrence, prevention, and mitigation) of membrane fouling with a focus on biofouling and its environmental consequences (e.g., damage to the structural integrity of pipes and other structures). This issue was addressed in his study regarding bacterial cannibalism to help control biofouling in New Mexico. His research has resulted in a reliable solution to cleaning biofilm while helping reinstate membrane desalination to reclaim precious water for future usage.

With the success of this project came many other opportunities for Dr. Huang, including a 5-year National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant in 2013, which provided him with the necessary funding to further his development of membrane infrastructure, fabrication and characterization in order to improve water desalination and wastewater reuse. Dr. Huang’s successful studies continued to gain recognition, and in 2018 he was awarded funding ($399,488) from the United States Bureau of Reclamation for a Phase II, pilot-scale project entitled, Geothermal Membrane Distillation for Large-Scale Use. For this study, Dr. Huang will perform field research on membrane distillation in collaboration with Masson Farms and AmeriCulture.

In 2019, Dr. Frank Huang’s newest second Phase II, pilot-scale project entitled, Thermally Regenerable Pressure Forward Osmosis (T-PFO) for Concentrating High-Salinity Produced Water, was recently announced as one of only five national winners to be awarded funding for a Phase II study. Even more impressively, his project was 1 out of 30 to receive the maximum grant amount of $400,000. Dr. Huang describes his second Phase II, pilot-scale project, as one that will be used to perform field testing of a thermally regenerable pressure forward osmosis (T-PFO) process on concentrating highly saline produced water so that a techno-economic model can be developed to assess the commercial viability of full-scale systems. As his research and data collection advances, Dr. Huang and his team will hopefully discover more novel connections and gather results that will further the study of water research.

Information regarding Dr. Huang’s projects and research can be found at: https://sites.google.com/view/membranes-at-nmt.

Information regarding the Bureau of Reclamation award can be found at: https://www.usbr.gov/newsroom/newsrelease/detail.cfm?RecordID=66943