Valerie Coulter

Ph.D. Student, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University
B.S.Ch.E. Chemical Engineering, Trine University, 2012


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Valerie is a doctoral student in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering being co-advised by Menachem Elimelech and Chinedum Osuji. Her research is focused on improving membranes for use in pressure retarded osmosis for renewable power generation.

Pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) utilizes the same osmotic pressure gradient present in other engineered osmosis systems caused by solutions with differing salt concentrations separated by a semi-permeable membrane. In this case, pressure is applied to the draw side (with higher salt concentration) so that the increase in volume of the pressurized draw solution can be utilitzed to run a power generating turbine.

PRO can be used with the ammonia-carbon dioxide draw solution developed at Yale for forward osmosis (FO) to create a closed-loop system requiring only waste heat available from a variety of industrial sources to produce renewable energy with the potential to replace coal and oil driven power plants. PRO can also be used to recover energy from natural and anthropogenic salinity gradients in open-loop systems.

The economic viability of PRO is now limited by the availability of suitable membranes. PRO membranes must have good transport to produce high power densities, but must also be mechanically robust to withstand the pressure gradients inherent in the system. The mechanical properties of engineered osmosis membranes is currently not well studied. With improved membranes, the cost of PRO to power consumers could be equivalent to or even less than current power generation costs.

Prior to Yale, Valerie earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from Trine University in Angola, Indiana. In addition to working in the lab, Valerie plays classical and jazz piano, knits, sews, and enjoys attending trivia night with the Environmental Engineering team at GPSCY. She can also be found walking her dog Trevor in East Rock Park.


pdfs and supporting information available on the main publications page.
  1. Zodrow, K.R., Coulter, V.H., Shaulsky, E., Elimelech, M. "Low Flow Data Logger in Membrane Distillation: An Interdisciplinary Laboratory in Process Control." Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Education Conference, Volume 4, March 2014, pages 70-73.