Suzana Pereira Nunes

  Professor, Environmental Science and Engineering                                                                             Associate Dean, BESE Division 

  Office Location: Al Jazri (Building 4) · Level 4 · Room 4274
  Faculty lab website:

Research Keywords
Membranes; Polymers; Self-assembly; Nanomaterials; Functionalization; Nanofiltration; Forward Osmosis; Water-based separations

Research Interests
The research focus on new polymeric materials, their functionalization manufacture into membranes for water-based separation as well as separations in organic solvents.  

1. Isoporous, charge-mosaic and biomimetic block copolymer membranes 

The objective of this project is the development of radically new membranes for water-based separation, using block copolymers specifically designed for achieving ordered morphology, high water flux and/or tailored functionalities, able to operate as chemical gates, responding to different stimuli, and/or having exceptionally high selectivity for proteins with similar molecular weights, water/salt and/or water/small organic molecules.

The project involves:
- Copolymer synthesis by controlled polymerization 
-  Membrane manufacture by phase inversion and copolymer self-assembly
-  Morphology control, pore design and characterization using advanced methods of electron microscopy (e. g. cryo scanning electron microscopy, focus ion beam with 3D reconstruction, transmission electron microscopy) and small angle x-ray scattering (synchrotron SAXS and GISAXS) including time-resolved experiments.
-  Modelling and thermodynamics of polymer solutions

2. Polyazole membranes 

The objective of this research is the synthesis of porous membranes based on polyoxadiazoles and polytriazoles with controlled hydrophobicity for water-based separation (e.g. membrane distillation, produced water treatment, membrane bioreactor, dehumidification) and stability for application in harsh environments and organic solvent medium.  The membranes are manufactured as flat-sheet, hollow fibers or by electrospinning. 

3. Multilayer membranes by dip-coating and interfacial polymerization 

The objective of this research is the development of multilayer composite membranes for nanofiltration, forward osmosis, pressure retarded osmosis and pervaporation.

Main Techniques
Material and membrane development: polycondensation, controlled polymerization, interfacial polymerization for membrane manufacture as flat-sheet and hollow fiber (lab scale and machine with double and triple spinneret).
Polymer and membrane characterization: gel permeation chromatography (GPC) with 4 detectors, thermal analysis (dynamic mechanical analysis and thermogravimetric analysis), oscillatory rheometer, proton conductivity equipment, porosimeter, cryo-ultramicrotome and sputtering equipment for sample preparation for transmission and scanning electron microscopy. 
Application set-ups: forward osmosis and pressure retarded osmosis, pervaporation, nano- and ultrafiltration.

Members of the Lab

Dr. Stefan Chisca: Postdoc, PhD Petru Poni, Romania, working on polymer synthesis and characterization for membranes

Dr. Srivatisa Bettahalli: Postdoc, PhD Twente University, Netherlands, working on hollow fiber membrane manufacture and characterization for instance for membrane distillation and produced water treatment

Dr. Duong Phuoc: Postdoc, PhD at NUS, Singapore, working on membrane development and application for pressure retarded osmosis and forward osmosis, collaboration with Prof. Neal Chung, NUS.

Dr. Ngoc Lieu Le: Postdoc, PhD at NUS, Singapore, working on hollow fiber membranes for forward osmosis and pressure retarded osmosis, collaboration with Prof. Neal Chung, NUS.

Burhannudin Sutisna: PhD student, MS KAUST, Saudi Arabia/Eidhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, working on self-assembly of block copolymers for membranes

DooLi Kim: PhD student, MS Yonsei University, Korea, working on hollow fiber interfacial polymerization membranes

Meixia Shi: PhD student, MS Zhejiang University, China, working on membrane development, characterization and modeling for forward osmosis

Nicolas Moreno: PhD student, MS National University of Colombia, working on dissipative particle dynamic modeling for block copolymer self-assembly

Poornima Madhavan: PhD student, MS Anna University, India, working on self-assembly of block copolymers for membranes

Sara Livazovik: PhD student, MS University of Zagreb, Croatia, working on cellulose-based nanofiltration membrane development

Taghreed Jalal: PhD student, MS King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia, working on pervaporation of organic azeotropes

Yihui Xie: PhD student, MS Fudan University, China, working on controlled polymerization for membrane development and functionalization

Badoor Nasser: PhD student, MS Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain 

Carolina Cuevas Mendoza: Research Engineer, BS National University of Colombia, working on membranes for biotechnology

Selected Publications
H. Yu, X. Qiu, S. P. Nunes and K. V. Peinemann, Biomimetic block copolymer particles with gated nanopores and ultrahigh protein sorption capacity, Nature Communications 2014, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5110

H. Maab, S. P. Nunes, Porous polyoxadiazole membranes for harsh environment, J. Membrane Sci. 2013, 445, 127-134.

D. S. Marques, U. Vainio, N. M. Chaparro, V. M. Calo, A. R. Behzad, J. W. Pitera, K. V. Peinemann, S. P. Nunes, Self-assembly in casting solutions of block copolymer membranes, Soft Matter 2013, 9, 5557-5564.  

P. Madhavan, K. V. Peinemann, S. P. Nunes, Complexation-tailored morphology of asymmetric block copolymer membranes, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 2013, 5, 7152-7159.

X. Qiu, H. Yu, M. Karunakaran, N. Pradeep, S. P. Nunes, K. V. Peinemann, Selective separation of similarly sized proteins with tunable nanoporous block copolymer membranes, ACS Nano 2013, 7, 768-776.