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Shihong Lin

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Director of Graduate Recruiting for Environmental Engineering
Chancellor Faculty Fellow

Civil and Environmental Engineering
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Intellectual Neighborhoods

Research Focus

  • Membrane Processes
  • Water-Energy-Environment Nexus
  • Environmental Surface Science
  • Environmental Application and Implication of Nanotechnology

Core Research Areas

Membrane Distillation

Membrane distillation (MD) is a thermal desalination process using hydrophobic microporous membrane. As a small footprint and low capital cost membrane process that can utilize low temperature waste heat, MD is potentially a cost-effective technology for desalination of highly saline water and can thus be employed for desalinating fracking wastewater for beneficial reuse or for reducing the volume of reverse osmosis brine. We are interested in both theoretical and experimental research on MD with the aim to better understand and advance the process. Existing research efforts include system level energy efficiency analysis to evaluate the energy consumption of MD and identify its major influencing factors, and development of novel omniphobic MD membrane.

Environmental Applications of Surfaces with Special Wettability

Special wettability refers to certain surface wetting properties that are not very commonly encountered in our daily life, but many of which have been observed in natural systems (e.g. superhydrophobic otus leaf). There have been significant advances in recent years in material science on elucidating the mechanism of special wettability and engineering artificial surfaces with special wettability using biomimetic approaches. We believe that specially-wettable surfaces can lead to innovative solutions in environmental engineering as many of the processes we are interested in occur at the interfaces. Ongoing research in our group explores the use of specially-wettable surfaces for robust membrane distillation, anti-fouling membranes, and advanced condensation.

System Analysis of Membrane Processes

While the majority of lab-scale studies on membrane processes are conducted on a small membrane coupon to evaluate mass transfer kinetics or fouling behavior, membrane processes in the industrial scale are implemented in modules that house a large area of membrane in a small volume. In many membrane processes, the mass transfer leads to driving force variation along the module which results in spatially heterogeneous behavior within the module. We apply either analytical derivation or numerical simulation to understand the mass transfer behavior and the thermodynamic limits of various membrane processes such as reverse osmosis, forward osmosis, pressure retarded osmosis, and membrane distillation. Our goal is to provide rational analytical tools for informed evaluation of process viability and to facilitate module-level optimization of design and operation for membrane systems.

Selected Publications

Lin, S ., Nejati, S., Boo, C., Hu, Y., Chinedum, O., and Elimelech, M., “Omniphobic Membrane for Robust Membrane Distillation”, Environmental Science & Technology-Letters, 1(11), 2014, Page 443-447

Lin, S., Yip, N.Y., and Elimelech, M.,“Direct Contact Membrane Distillation with Heat Recovery: Thermodynamic Insights from Module Scale Modeling”, Journal of Membrane Science, 453, 2014, Page 498-515

Lin, S., A.P. Straub, and Elimelech, M., “Thermodynamic Limits of Extractable Energy by Pressure Retarded Osmosis”, Energy and Environmental Science, 7, 2014, Page 2706-2715.

Lin, S., Yip, N.Y., Cath, T.Y., Osuji, C.O., and Elimelech, M.,“Hybrid Pressure Retarded Osmosis—Membrane Distillation System for Power Generation from Low-grade Heat: Thermodynamic Analysis and Energy Efficiency”, Environmental Science & Technology,48(9), 2014, Page 5306-5317

Lin, S. and Wiesner, M.R., “Deposition of Aggregated Nanoparticles— A Theoretical and Experimental Study on the Effect of Aggregation State on the Affinity between Nanoparticles and a Collector Surface”, Environmental Science & Technology, 46(24), 2012, Page 13270-13277

Lin, S.*,Huang, R.*, Cheng, Y., Liu, J., Lau, B., and Wiesner, M.R., “Silver Nanoparticle-Alginate Composite Beads for Point-of-Use Drinking Water Disinfection”, Water Research, 47(21), 2013, Page 3959-3965 (*Equal Contribution)

A complete list of peer-reviewed publication can be found here.


Dr. Shihong Lin is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as well as the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Lin grew up in China and received his bachelor degree from Harbin Institute of Technology in 2006, and his M.S and Ph.D. from Duke University in 2011 and 2012, respectively. He worked with Prof. Mark R. Wiesner for his doctoral dissertation on the topic of nanoparticle deposition. After finishing graduate school, Dr. Lin spent two years at Yale University working with Prof. Menachem Elimelech who introduced him to the area of membrane processes. He then joined Vanderbilt University as an assistant professor in 2015.Throughout his education and professional training, Dr. Lin has developed a strong and coherent interest in physiochemical processes in environmental engineering which has now evolve to include (1) membrane processes at water-energy-environment nexus, (2) environmental surface science, and (3) environmental application and implication of nanotechnology. Dr. Lin is the recipient of the ACS Environmental Chemistry Graduate Student award in 2013.