Every day more than one-third of the world’s population faces the challenge of finding adequate supplies of safe drinking water. Growing populations, increased industrialization and contamination of freshwater resources, along with climate change put stress on existing sources. A paper written by William A. Phillip, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering the University of Notre Dame, and Menachem Elimelech, the Roberto Goizueta Professor of Environmental and Chemical Engineering and Director of the Environmental Engineering Program at Yale University, not only addresses possible solutions, the document does it well enough to have passed the 1,000 citation mark, a milestone in academic circles.
Titled “The Future of Seawater Desalination: Energy, Technology, and the Environment,” the paper was published in the August 5, 2011, issue of Science magazine. In short, it provides an overview of major advancements in desalination technologies, the drawbacks of conventional technologies for treating seawater [being too energy-intensive to be economical as well as potential environmental impacts], and the potential role of advanced materials and technologies for improving performance and sustainability while also addressing world water shortages.
Phillip, who was a postdoctoral researcher at Yale when he and Elimelech submitted the paper, now leads the Water purification and Advanced Transport Engineering Research (WATER) laboratory at Notre Dame, where he studies the ways in which structure and chemistry affect the transport of solutes and solvents across polymeric membranes. By understanding the fundamental connection between functionality and property, he and his team hope to gain information to be able to design and fabricate next-generation membranes from advanced materials to provide more precise control over mass transfer and enhance chemical separation at the water-energy nexus.
He has received numerous awards, including the 2015 DuPont Young Professor Award, 2014 North American Membrane Society (NAMS) Young Membrane Scientist Award, a Young Investigator Program grant from the Army Research Office, the 3M Nontenured Faculty Award from the 3M Corporation and is a co-author of a Top Cited Paper for 2010 and 2011 from the Journal of Membrane Science.
A member of NAMS, the American Chemical Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and American Physical Society, Phillip has also published several high-profile papers in ACS Nano, Nano Letters, Journal of the American Chemical Society, and other prestigious journals.
Phillip, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2004, received his doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2009. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University, he joined the University of Notre Dame faculty in 2011.