Assistant professor wins college’s first DOE Early Career Award

By Cassie Montgomery

Published: Sep 4, 2020 9:25:00 AM

Assistant professor Bryan Beckingham, right. Assistant professor Bryan Beckingham, right.

Bryan Beckingham has become the first faculty member from the Auburn University Samuel Ginn College of Engineering to receive an award through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science’s Early Career Research Program.

An assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Beckingham has been awarded $750,000 over five years to support his research on multi-solute transport behavior within ion-containing polymer membranes. The potential impact of this project, titled “Transport of Complex Mixtures in Ion-Containing Polymer Membranes,” includes the future design of ion-containing polymer membranes for a range of applications, including energy devices, water purification and the separation of other complex mixtures.

“Membranes are really important components of many energy devices as well as industrial processes, such as fine chemical separations, fuel cells and water purification. In nearly all of these applications, the membrane is challenged with separating molecules from mixtures,” he explained. “Unfortunately, our understanding of how the interactions between membrane chemistry and mixture compositions impacts membrane performance is poor and currently a big challenge in designing better materials.”

Beckingham will use his award to tackle this challenge through experiments that will investigate the fundamental relationships between membrane structure, membrane physiochemical properties and transport behavior of solutes and complex solute mixtures through dense, hydrated membranes.

“We’re really excited about this project, which will fabricate many membranes with different chemistries and use a new technique for investigating multicomponent transport in order to understand how the membrane chemistry and mixture composition together impact the membrane properties,” he said.

Beckingham joins Steven Mansoorabadi, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, as the second Auburn University faculty member to receive the DOE Early Career Award.

“I am very proud of Dr. Beckingham for receiving this prestigious and highly competitive award,” said Mario Eden, the Joe T. and Billie Carole McMillan Professor and chemical engineering department chair. “It is a testament to his tremendous talent and hard work. He is clearly establishing himself as a leading researcher in the field of polymeric membranes and associated energy and environmental applications.”

In its eleventh year, the DOE’s Early Career award is designed to support researchers from American universities and national laboratories during the formative years of their careers in research and academia. This year the DOE awarded 76 researchers, 26 from national laboratories and 50 from universities. According to the program, research topics are required to fall within one of the Department’s Office of Science’s six major program offices: Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Basic Energy Sciences, Biological and Environmental Research, Fusion Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics.

Media Contact: Cassie Montgomery, cmontgomery@auburn.edu, 334.844.3668

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