April 15, 2020
Xiujuan Chen is a University of Regina PhD student in the Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Communities.
When did you start your PhD?
I started my PhD in May 2014.
When did you know that you wanted to go to graduate school?
Since I did my master’s degree with IEESC, I knew that I wanted to continue and pursue my PhD degree with the same research group.
Tell us about your research.
My research is focused on membrane modification through nanoparticle self-assembly for industrial wastewater treatment. Membrane surface modification is an effective way to improve membrane performance, specifically its hydrophilicity and antifouling abilities. In my studies, super-hydrophilic and robust membranes have been fabricated for industrial wastewater treatment through surface modification from commercial polymer membranes. This work involves improving and optimizing membranes using facile nanoparticle self-assembly following a cold plasma-induced polymer polymerization process.
Why is this research important?
Pollution from industrial activities has brought about serious health risks and the destruction of ecosystems, becoming an urgent global environmental problem. Developing effective methods for industrial wastewater treatment is needed yet it is also full of challenges. Traditional techniques, such as gravity separation, flocculation and flotation, can be inefficient, costly and create secondary pollution. Filtration technology using polymer membranes is considered a promising alternative for industrial wastewater treatment. However, the hydrophobic nature of polymer membranes means that they are easily contaminated during filtration, which will eventually lead to an increase in energy consumption and a decrease in treatment efficiency. Thus, it is desired to improve the surface hydrophilicity and antifouling ability of polymer membranes for industrial wastewater treatment.
What do you find most interesting about your research?
The treatment efficiency of membrane filtration for industrial wastewater treatment can be increased several times after modification. The robustness of modified membranes under various conditions also make them practical for long-term operation. To me the most interesting thing is that the mechanisms of membrane modification can be revealed using synchrotron-based X-ray analyses (such as at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon). These studies provide scientific supports for developing highly efficient membranes through surface modification to reduce energy consumption during industrial wastewater treatment.
Tell us about your experience with IEESC/Regina.
IEESC is a big group with professional researchers and hard-working students. Our supervisor, Dr. Gordon Huang, provides strong support and unselfish help for our research. Under his guidance, our group members love each other and always provide assistance when someone needs help. We can easily access the CLS in Saskatoon to do our research. Each visit, students test samples continuously for a minimum of 48 hours at a time. Since this is a very laborious process as we work around the clock, we each take turns doing experiments while the others rest. The students cooperate well and work in harmony with each other without complaint. I really appreciate their help and consideration. Studying with IEESC I learn how to work well with people and how to help others. It’s a great teamwork spirit, which benefits my research and my future work a lot.
What advice would you give to a student considering a visit to IEESC and Regina?
They should have a positive attitude towards life and study, especially when facing difficulties. They need to treasure their time and work hard, so that they can enrich themselves. They should learn to work with others and feel happy to help others.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Before I determined my research area my supervisor, Dr. Huang, helped me to analyze research “hotspots”. Our senior and most experienced group members helped me to analyze the status of my research interest. With their help, I found my research inspiration on membrane material development and membrane modification.
What are your future plans?
I will continue my research on membrane material development and membrane modification for industrial wastewater treatment. After graduation, I hope to work in a research institution to continue my research.
Thanks for your time and best wishes for your research, Xiujuan!
To learn more about Xiujuan’s research, see the following publications:
X. J. Chen, G. H. Huang, C. J. An, R. F. Feng, Y. H. Wu and C. Z. Huang, Plasma induced PAA-ZnO Coated PVDF membrane for oily wastewater treatment: preparation, optimization, and characterization through Taguchi OA design and synchrotron-based X-ray analysis, Journal of Membrane Science, (2019). 582: 70-82.
X. J. Chen, G. H. Huang, C. J. An, R. F. Feng, Y. Yao, S. Zhao, C. Z. Huang, and Y. H. Wu. Plasma-induced poly (acrylic acid)-Ti02 coated polyvinylidene fluoride membrane for produced water treatment: Synchrotron X-Ray, optimization, and insight studies. Journal of Cleaner Production, (2019). 227: 772-783.