[Researcher of the Month] From Seawater to Fresh Water
Professor Kwak Rho-kyun (Department of Mechanical Engineering)
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Droughts and water shortages are serious global threats. However, many technical developments are in progress to resolve these problems, and one of them is desalination. Desalination is the process of separating the salt in seawater from the water in order to get usable fresh water. However, the currently available technologies have the problem of sustainability, for they require fossil fuel and costly factories to be constructed. To suggest an alternative, Professor Kwak Rho-kyun (Department of Mechanical Engineering) is researching electro-membrane desalination.
Electro-membrane desalination uses the division of positive ion and negative ion when salt dissolves in water. The positive and negative ions are drawn to each pole when voltage is applied. Intersecting the membrane that makes each ion between electrodes pass through, called the exchange membrane of positive and negative ions, salt ions can be collected and removed. What is left is fresh water with the saline ions removed.
Kwak has been working on the topic for 10 years, since he was a doctoral student. He said he first began his research inspired by the idea from his Ph.D. advisor that the unusual migration phenomenon of biomaterials such as DNA and ions would also occur in the electric membrane desalination system.
His first goal was building a system of electro-membrane desalination to check whether the migration of biomaterials such as DNA and ions appear in the system of electro-membrane desalination, and visualizing the migration of the ions inside. Based on the visualization research, Kwak studied various subjects such as improving the efficiency of existing desalination devices and of treating the produced water.
Kwak said the significance of the study lies in that it developed a promising futuristic desalination technology, enabling Korea to become a global powerhouse to solve the future water shortage problem. Kwak’s innovative research has been highly acknowledged, introduced in journals like PRL and JOFM and others on the topics of desalination and water research.
Kwak also expressed gratitude toward his graduate school students who have helped him throughout the research process. “I really want to thank my students. Their hard work was what made it possible to achieve such good research results,” said Kwak.
Hwang Hee-won firstname.lastname@example.org
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