Explore the Nano World 

Mar. 2019:Congratulations to Kaiqin for winning the Third Place in AWWA NJ 84rd Annual Conference!

​​​Mar. 2019: Congratulations to Wanyi  for successfully defending her dissertation!

 Wen's Research Group​

Wen Zhang

Principal Investigator
Associate Professor

Phone: (973) 596-5520 
Fax: (973) 596-5790
Email: wen.zhang@njit.edu

Office Location: Colton Hall 211

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Magnetophoretic separation for algal biomass separation and biofuel production

The growing potential of algal biotechnology as a resource could be used to tackle many global challenges in energy and the environment. Microalgal biomass is one of the promising feedstock for fertilizers, animal food sources, and other valuable substances such as antioxidants, antibiotics and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Recently, microalgae are considered as good candidates for biofuel production and have gained enormous research interests. Microalgae can be used for the removal of nutrients (e.g. nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate) from impaired water and the sequestration of CO2, a greenhouse gas resulting in global climate change. On the other 

hand, wide algae cause water contaminant that negatively affects water quality. Thus, efficient algal separation or removal from water is not only critical for biofuel production but also important for drinking water security. Thus, microalgae cultivation, separation from growth media, post-treatment, and biofuel production are all critical to address the challenges in renewable energy generation and sustainable development of the environment.  We are currently developing innovative separation processes such as biocoagulation, magnetophoretic separation using magnetic nanoparticle coagulants, and reactive membrane systems. Particularly, our research team performs extensive investigations of magnetic Fe3O4 nanoparticles as a core material to synthesize multiple nanocomposite materials with cationic polymers and semiconductor nanomaterials. Their research indicates magnetic nanocomposite materials could help achieve exceptional algal harvesting efficiency with competitive economic viability. More importantly, we recently developed a technique based on the UV-induced surface hydrophobicity shift to recover and reuse these magnetic agents as shown in the figure above 14, which potentially reduces the algal harvesting cost. Recovery of nanoparticles from algal biomass using green chemistry methods may also find many other engineering applications that require recovery, recycle and reuse of valuable nanomaterials.  

Major achievements:

(1) One Ph.D. student (Michael Agbakpe) and a postdoc fellow (Shijian Ge) were trained and Michael graduated in 2015 with honor of receiving the Doctoral Excellence Award from NJIT.

(2) Two undergraduate students were involved and received SURP grants.

(3) Led to one collaborative NSF proposal.

(4) Received $2000 from Hamilton Company for partnerships in education (http://www.hamiltongrants.com/grant-testimonials/).

(5) 5 journal publications.

(6) Two patent disclosures were filed at NJIT.