Water-Energy Nexus with Enhanced Transport via Bio-inspired Design, Fabrication and In-situ Characterization


Water-energy nexus is crucial for attaining sustainable development goals of our world, especially in gulf countries. Bio-inspired design, advanced fabrication and in-situ characterization offer tremendous opportunities for energy and sustainability applications by enhancing light-heat-fluid transport. In this talk, I will first introduce our inventions of biomimetic water treatment technology enabled by stereolithography 3D printing. By additively fabricating 3D hydrogel composite structure on PEGDA foam, the proposed solar desalination device is able to achieve superior light absorption, rapid capillary water transport and extraordinary evaporation with a rate over 5 kg/(m2h) under one sun. Moreover, by fabricating “fish gill” structures on metallic micromesh and polymeric membrane, we managed to achieve anti-fouling and anti-clogging functionality by ricocheting plastic micro-particles or emulsified oil droplets through hydrodynamic manipulation. Aiming at sustainable solar distillation without brine discharge, we have invented a scalable and anti-corrosive mangrove-mimicked device for direct solar vapor generation and passive salt collection simultaneously. Precipitated salts at the leaf edge form porous patches during daytime evaporation and get peeled by gravity during night when capillarity-driven saline water rewets the leaves. Under outdoor conditions, it can produce 2.2 L m−2 of freshwater per day from real seawater, which is sufficient for individual drinking needs. At the end, I will share our progresses on in-situ magnetic resonance characterization of transient water evaporation and ice melting within opaque porous media. This has enabled us to probe new physical insights into arid soil evapotranspiration for water-food nexus and in-situ resource (ice) utilization for deep space exploration. This non-destructive characterization approach is instrumental in development of novel solutions to energy and environmental challenges involving interfacial transport or phase transition in heterogeneous porous media.


Prof. TieJun (TJ) Zhang is the Associate Dean of College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. He is also a Member of the Mohammed bin Rashid Academy of Scientists (UAE’s National Academy) and the Theme Leader of Abu Dhabi Virtual Research Institute for Sustainability (Energy). He was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in USA. As one of World’s Top 2% of Scientists, he has over 160 peer-reviewed publications and multiple international patents. As an educator, he has mentored over 60 PhD & MSc students and research staffs as well as many intern students.

Prof. Zhang is the recipient of the UAE National Research Foundation University-Industry Research Collaboration Award, the Abu Dhabi Award for Research Excellence, and the US National Academy of Sciences Arab-American Frontiers Fellowship Award. He has been the Principal Investigator of many research projects (~US$15 millions) on energy, water and micro/nanotechnologies. Prof. Zhang is an Associate Editor of ASME Journal of Micro and Nano-Manufacturing. He was the co-chair (Arab-side) of the Fourth Arab-American Frontiers of Science, Engineering and Medicine Symposium between USA and 22 Arab countries (organized by the US National Academies). He has been an invited reviewer for many international research proposals, doctoral dissertations and over 60 scientific journals.


Professor TieJun (TJ) Zhang

College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Event Quick Information

18 Apr, 2024
11:45 AM - 01:00 PM
KAUST, B20 Auditorium