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Dr. Erik Hoek

Eric Hoek.jpeg

Prof. Eric Hoek is a professor in UCLA’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Institute of the Environment & Sustainability and the California NanoSystems Institute. At UCLA, he serves as the faculty director of the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, which is a university-wide initiative that connects scholars across campus with regional partners with the mutual goal to make Los Angeles the most sustainable megacity by 2050. Prof. Hoek’s research explores membrane formation and application to water, energy and environmental separations. Prof. Hoek has over 130 peer-reviewed scientific publications, over 70 patents filed globally, is Editor-in-Chief of The Encyclopedia of Membrane Science and is Editor-in-Chief of npj Clean Water. Prof. Hoek studied engineering at Yale (Ph.D.), UCLA (M.S.) and Penn State (B.S.).

Engineering the Next-Generation of Membrane Materials Needed to Achieve Global Water Sustainability Goals

Today, we have commercially available NF/RO membranes with separation performance ranging from high-divalent/low-monovalent rejecting NF membranes up to seawater RO membranes exhibiting >99.85% TDS rejection, and everywhere between. However, we know of no commercial NF or RO membranes that were specifically developed for removal of uncharged organic solutes, which may be present at trace levels in surface and ground waters and higher levels in tertiary wastewater effluents. Given the sustainability imperatives driving increasing utilization of impaired, local waters and municipal wastewater as potable water sources and the ubiquity of NF/RO membranes in their treatment, it begs the question, “If one were to develop a new NF/RO membrane, specifically for uncharged organic solute rejection, how permeable could it be to water while meeting organic solute rejection goals?”


Herein, I will give a broad overview of sustainability research at UCLA and review a few highlights from UCLA NanoMeTeR Lab research over the past two decades, including a few of our attempts to translate our scientific discoveries and inventions into commercial innovations.  Then, I will present new results--both experimental and theoretical--on uncharged organic solute transport through NF/RO membranes in the hopes of answering the question posed above, in addition to giving guidance towards the necessary physical-chemical properties of low-pressure NF/RO membranes designed specifically for uncharged organic removal, which may be one of the last unmet challenges in aquatic membrane separations and a key for meeting long term water sustainability goals globally. 

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