Shihong Lin

Ph.D. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University, 2012
M.S. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University 2011
B.S. Environmental Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology, China, 2006


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Shihong is a postdoctoral research associate in Prof. Elimelech's group in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University. His research interests can be broadly defined as physiochemical processes in environmental engineering, which includes membrane processes for desalination and energy generation, environmental applications of nanomaterials, and colloidal/interfacial phenomena in aquatic systems. In his academic pursuits, he is particularly interested in combining experimental approaches with theoretical modeling to tackle various research questions.

Figure 1. Scanning electron microscopy of a micro-porous hydrophilic membrane modified with nanoparticles. The inset shows the hydrophobicity after modification

Shihong’s recent research projects include developing novel super-amphiphobic membrane using surface nano-structures (Figure 1) for robust direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD). DCMD is one of the promising membrane technologies for desalination and wastewater treatment, as it can utilize the abundant low-grade thermal energy in many industries that would otherwise be unutilized. Recently, DCMD has also been identified as a key thermal separation component for hybrid membrane processes for sustainable energy generation (with PRO) and wastewater reuse (with FO). The overarching hypothesis of this study is that a superamphiphobic membrane enables robust DCMD operation against fouling and wetting by low surface tension contaminants in the feed water.

Figure 2. Temperature distribution profiles along a DCMD module under three different operation regimes.

Shihong is also interested in understanding the thermodynamic limits of energy efficiencies of a DCMD process, and factors that control the process performance. Towards this goal, he and his colleagues carried out numerical modeling as well as analytical analysis for DCMD at a module scale. One of the key findings is that there exist different operation regimes that are characterized by temperature distribution profiles, and that the relative flow rate (α) is a critical operation parameter that dictates which regime the system operates in (Figure 2). Based on these findings we can analytically quantify the optimal operation conditions and evaluate the thermodynamic limit of the process efficiencies.

Beyond DCMD, Shihong is also interested in understanding factors influencing the performance of pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) at a module scale level, which is an important component of an engineered hybrid membrane system (PRO-MD) that is capable of convert low-grade waste heat to electricity (Figure 3). With these studies on membrane processes revolving the water-energy nexus, he is passionate about seeking engineered solutions for a more sustainable future.

Figure 3. Schematic diagram of a PRO-MD hybrid membrane system for converting thermal energy to electricity.

Before joining Prof. Elimelech's group, Shihong was a PhD student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University. Under the supervision of Prof. Mark Wiesner, he studied the colloidal interaction between nanoparticles and (environmental) surfaces, which is relevant not only to the transport and fate, but also to the biological interaction of nanoparticles. By employing both theoretical and experimental tools, he tried to understand the influence of several important factors, such as particle size, surface polymer coatings and aggregation state on the affinity between nanoparticles and the collector surfaces. It was through those studies that Shihong got really fascinated by colloidal and interface sciences.

Shihong grew up in China and went to college at Harbin Institute of Technology, China, to study Environmental Engineering in one of top programs in the nation, with the dream of solving China’s environmental problems. Although he later realized that the solutions to that big problem require much more than just engineering, he became really passionate in doing research and finding solutions to smaller problems, and he now desires to pursue a career in academia. He doesn't know where his next stop will be, but he feels fortunate enough to be able to do what really interests him along the road.