​Building Thin Films with
Functionality, Universality & Novelty

Our research group focus on novel synthesis methods and vacuum processes to create various functional thin film materials that tackle many critical challenges for the world.

Find more in our research and publications.

The formation of inorganic foulants can significantly impair the efficiency of desalination processes. For thermal desalination technologies such as multistage flash (MSF), scale formation often causes up to 95% decrease of heat transfer efficiency and clogging inside the heating exchanger tubes. Consequently, the desalination plants have to be shut down regularly for maintenance, even though additives have been applied to control the precipitation rate of scale minerals. Strategies to effectively reduce scaling on desalination equipment surfaces are therefore highly desired for energy-efficient uninterrupted desalination operations.






In our recent work, we developed anti-scaling surfaces using initiated chemical vapor deposited (iCVD) covalently crosslinked organic networks. These coatings are ultrathin so as to maintain the overall heat transfer coefficient. The low surface energy of the iCVD polymer films leads to high energy barrier for CaCO3 heterogeneous nucleation, which is key to slowing down the scaling kinetics. These iCVD coatings exhibit excellent stability and passivation ability, enabling effective, prolonged inhibition of the surface electrochemical oxidation of Cu/Ni in hot aqueous environment and the corrosion-induced CaCO3 nucleation. As a result, the amount of CaCO3 scale was reduced by up to 14 times at 110 ℃. The outstanding performance indicates that these iCVD thin films are very promising for scaling control in thermal desalination processes and petroleum industry as well.

Recent Highlights

Group News

Invited Talk

Prof. Zhao gave an invited talk at the 2019 International Conference on Advanced Fibers and Polymer Materials in Shanghai.

AIChE Poster

Graduate student Yixin Chen presented her poster at AIChE 2019 in Orlando.

Invited Talk

Prof. Zhao was invited to give a talk at the 10th China Congress on Membrane and Membrane Progress in Beijing.

New Students

Graduate students Mingjun Qiu and Shuchang Yuan joined our group. Welcome!