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Chemistry Faculty Receive International Prize for Water Research

Ben Hsiao
Benjamin Hsiao

Benjamin S. Hsiao, distinguished professor, and Priyanka Sharma, research assistant professor, both from the Department of Chemistry at Stony Brook University, received the Creativity Prize — which is awarded to water-related interdisciplinary work — in the ninth Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW). They were recognized at the PSIPW Virtual Awards Ceremony on March 22.

The PSIPW is an internationally renowned scientific award established in 2002 by H.R.H. Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz. It recognizes innovative research aimed at finding solutions to today’s global water-related challenges.

Hsiao’s team has developed adsorbents, coagulants and membrane materials from sustainable, biomass-sourced nanocellulose fibres along with numerous practical applications that promise to provide effective water purification for off-grid communities of the developing world. Their work also involves the development of environmentally friendly biomass extraction processes to produce these low-cost cellulose nanofibers for use in energy-efficient industrial water treatments, desalination and heavy metal removal, capable of reaching a performance/price ratio of more than 10 to 100 times better than existing commercial systems. 

Priyanka Sharma
Priyanka Sharma

“Ben is a scholar with a global vision. He is also an inventor and entrepreneur. His creative work on the development of sustainable new nanomaterials, especially nanocellulose, for water purification is not only paying off with real technological solutions that are supplying clean water to off-grid communities of the developing world, but also offering new opportunities in the design and fabrication of next generation high flux membranes for energy-efficient industrial water treatments and desalination,” said Peter J. Tonge, Distinguished Professor and Chairs of the Department of Chemistry.

Hsiao has launched the Innovative Global Energy Solutions Center, which aims to prototype tomorrow’s sustainability for off-grid communities using the Turkana Basin Institute in northern Kenya as a living laboratory. This project addresses the grand challenges of water, energy and information technology sustainability in the remote regions of the developing world, and offers economic development opportunity to local communities through research and education. He is also director of the Center for Integrated Electric Energy Systems, with the mission to enhance the development of advanced technologies for the innovative nexus of food, energy and water systems. 

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