New membranes for wastewater resource recovery

© 2024 EPFL

© 2024 EPFL

Zongyao Zhou, winner of the 2023 Eurotech Future Awards 2nd prize and former EPFLeaders4impact fellow, talks about his research vision towards global water quality and availability.

Dr Zhou’s research focuses on membrane-based technologies for wastewater resource recovery and green energy exploitation. These efforts align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of promoting clean water and sanitation, ensuring healthy lives for people of all ages, and advancing affordable and clean energy. “By creating a highly effective filtration system, our research has the potential to make a significant impact on global water quality and availability, ultimately improving the well-being of individuals and communities worldwide.”

EPFL is part of the Eurotech University alliance, who awarded Dr Zhou with one of three 2023 Future Award, in recognition of his work towards the UN SDGs as an early career researcher. The panel was won over by years of efforts toward clean water. “I submitted an executive summary of my research, including both my PhD and EPFL projects. During my PhD, I developed a new type of microporous polymeric membranes that can quickly remove antibiotics and heavy metal ions from drinking water. At EPFL, as an EPFLeader4impact fellow, I further developed this technology and combined it with Prof. Agrawal's monolayer graphene technology to develop high performance membranes for lithium extraction from seawater.”

EPFLeaders4impact is a European Union-funded postdoctoral program in sustainable innovation. “The program has provided me with a nearly perfect experience”, says Dr Zhou. "It supported me in participating in numerous trainings beyond research, towards my personal career development. The financial support and these trainings have been instrumental in the successful development of my project. Importantly, the program facilitated my interaction with a group of thoughtful and accomplished individuals, enabling me to refine my future development plans.”

Dr Zhou has now secured a teaching position at a Chinese university, where he will use his knowledge and technology, along with the entrepreneurial skills acquired at EPFL, to implement his work vision: “My goal is to keep making meaningful contributions to advance the SDGs and improve the lives of more and more people!”