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Chemist Brian Space To Lead $1.17 Million Partnership to Develop Better Water Sorption Materials

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Brian Space, professor and associate head of the Department of Chemistry, and his colleagues have received a combined $1.17 million award from the National Science Foundation’s U.S.-Ireland R&D Partnership to develop improved water sorption materials to address global freshwater accessibility challenges. According to the United Nations, 2 billion people around the world lack access to safely managed drinking water services.

Space will be the principal investigator on the project. He will collaborate with Mike Zaworotko, a professor at the University of Limerick in Ireland, and Stuart James, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. The researchers will focus on harvesting atmospheric water and developing more energy-efficient dehumidification technologies. While atmospheric water makes up only 4% of the earth’s water supply, it is infinitely renewable. Humidity control is essential for industries including food production, pharmaceuticals, chemical processing and petroleum refining, but current dehumidification technologies are a major source of global energy consumption.

Brian Space
Brian Space, professor and associate head of the Department of Chemistry

The three collaborators will leverage their individual research strengths — hybrid ultramicroporous materials (Zaworotko), porous liquids (James) and the development of predictive models (Space) — to study experimental sorption performance. The end result of the project will be educational training in theoretical modeling, materials synthesis and the design of systems for practical water harvesting, with the goal of equipping synthetic materials chemists to tackle grand challenges related to clean water and sanitation accessibility.

Space’s research focuses on developing and applying models of porous materials and interfacial systems with an emphasis on theoretical modeling of metal organic materials. He and his research group also work to improve simulations, with their efforts leading to the development of modern force fields for atomistic modeling of materials. 

Space earned his doctorate in physical chemistry from Boston University in 1992. He joined the faculty at NC State’s College of Sciences in January 2021. 

This post was originally published in College of Sciences News.