Water Purification and Desalination Using Two-Dimensional Crystals of Channel Proteins

EPA Grant Number: F13E10780
Title: Water Purification and Desalination Using Two-Dimensional Crystals of Channel Proteins
Investigators: Saboe, Patrick Owen
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 25, 2014 through August 25, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Chemical Engineering


The goal is to develop an efficient bio-inspired membrane technology for sustainable water filtration. It is driven by the high permeability and selectivity of biological water channel proteins, including aquaporins and outer membrane proteins. This project will focus on incorporating highdensity 2-D crystals of channel proteins into synthetic block copolymer membranes.


In this project, channel proteins will be crystallized within block copolymer membranes to provide functional and stable material for water filtration. Channel proteins, such as Aquaporin 0 and Outer membrane protein F, are known to form well-ordered 2-D crystals within lipid membrane. Membrane protein compatible block copolymers such as the di-block polybutadiene-polyethyleneoxide polymer provides a stable alternative to sensitive lipid molecules. High-density protein crystals in block copolymers will be characterized by electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy. The permeability and selectivity of the 2-D crystals will be monitored using a laboratory scale filtration setup.

Expected Results:

The results of this project will demonstrate the feasibility of forming functional hybrid protein/polymer 2-D materials for water purification. The results will provide fundamental information regarding the design of protein-compatible polymers and will define the permeability and selectivity of the designed membranes for scaled-up systems. Structural information and data on the long-term stability of the membranes will be gained from the work.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

Biological membrane proteins with high selectivity are optimum for the removal of emerging contaminants such as endocrine-disruptor compounds, personal care products and pharmaceutically active compounds. The developing low-energy biomimetic membrane technology will promote water recycling and linked renewable energy operating systems.

Supplemental Keywords:

biomimetic membranes, desalination, two-dimensional crystals

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final