Georgia Tech Researcher Receives KAUST Investigator Grant

William J. Koros, Roberto C. Goizueta Chair and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Membranes in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has been selected to receive one of 12 research grants awarded by the Global Research Partnership of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The grant is valued at $2 million per year for five years.

Koros' proposal, entitled 'Advanced Membranes and Sorbents for More Sustainable Hydrocarbon Utilization,' is designed to develop better methods to purify oil and natural gas hydrocarbons. These improved methods will reduce cost, pollution and energy consumption for all large-scale separation and purification processes, not just oil and gas. Improved biofuel processes are also expected to result from the work.

"We are delighted that Bill Koros has received this prestigious award," said Georgia Tech Provost Gary Schuster. "His ability to compete successfully with top engineers from around the world is indicative of the excellence of his work and the global reputation of Georgia Tech."

Under the terms of the grant, the research will be conducted on the Georgia Tech campus. Koros will spend three weeks each year at KAUST, where he will interact with students, faculty and other researchers from around the world.

Koros' research will focus on separation processes that use pressure to force materials through a membrane that retains some substances on one side and allows others to pass to the other side. This process is best known under the name 'reverse osmosis' (RO) for its use in desalination (removing salt from sea water to make fresh water), but it can be used for gases as well.

Koros will be working to develop advanced membranes and sorbents (designed to purify gases and to capture CO2 for sequestration) capable of 10 times finer filtering than conventional membranes.

"Relatively speaking, it's like going from filtering particles the size of bowling balls away from ping pong balls for RO to filtering ping pong balls away from tennis balls for gas purification," Koros said.