Date of Completion


Embargo Period



forward osmosis, asymmetric membranes, structural characterization, transport phenomena, x-ray computed tomography, porosimetry, microbial fuel cells, activated carbon nanofibers.

Major Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey R. McCutcheon

Associate Advisor

Dr. Baikun Li

Associate Advisor

Dr. Richard Parnas

Associate Advisor

Dr. Ugur Pasaogullari

Associate Advisor

Dr. Leslie Shor

Field of Study

Chemical Engineering


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Engineered osmosis (EO) is an emerging membrane separations-based technology platform comprising of forward osmosis, pressure-retarded osmosis, and direct osmotic dilution/concentration processes. EO relies on a water flux driven across a semi-permeable membrane as a result of osmotic pressure gradients between two solutions, the relatively dilute feed and a concentrated draw solution. However, the support layer in EO membranes presents a resistance to solute transport resulting in internal concentration polarization (ICP) phenomena which results in the actual driving force being far lower than what is available. Severity of ICP is largely influenced by the structure of the support layer in the composite EO membranes. The successful commercialization of EO requires, among other key factors, tailoring of membranes with optimum structures. To this end, there is a flurry of research on the fabrication of novel membranes but no adequate methods to characterize and understand how these structures affect membrane transport. This thesis is among the first few to present efforts to comprehensively characterize EO membrane structures and understand how they relate to transport. New approaches to soft materials characterization have been developed and limitations of traditional approaches have been convincingly proved. Numerical simulation studies have been employed to inform future membrane designers on optimal structures for transport. It is believed that this work is an important step towards understanding and optimizing membrane structure for separations technologies, especially forward osmosis.