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Kamalesh K Sirkar

Kamalesh K. Sirkar, PhD, is Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering; Foundation Professor, Membrane Separations; and Director of the NJIT Center for Membrane Technologies. Sirkar is an honored member of NJIT’s Otto H. York Department of Chemical, Biological and Pharmaceutical Engineering. At NJIT since 1992, he was previously a professor of chemical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.

Sirkar is an internationally recognized expert in membrane separation technologies, which have wide industrial application. The holder of 25 U.S. patents, he is the inventor of the commercialized membrane-based solvent extraction technology for which the former Hoechst Celanese Inc. received Honorable Mention when the Kirkpatrick Awards for Chemical Engineering Achievement were announced in 1991.

Membrane separation processes are used throughout the world by the chemical, food, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to separate, purify or concentrate liquid solutions, cellular suspensions or gaseous mixtures. They are also increasingly important in meeting the growing global need for pure drinking water, an application that has been a major focus of Sirkar’s recent research.

The innovative membrane distillation process that Sirkar has developed to desalinate water is especially notable because it works with brines having salt concentrations above 5.5 percent. Currently, 5.5 percent is the highest percentage of salt in brine that can be treated commercially using prevalent reverse-osmosis technology.

Many membrane separation processes depend on creating minute pores or transport corridors in various types of membrane material by means of very sophisticated manufacturing processes. The size of the pores/transport corridors is key to determining which molecular components in a liquid will pass though the membrane from a region of high concentration to a region of much lower concentration, even blocking the passage of particular molecules almost entirely. Typically, pressure or concentration differences on the two sides of the membrane cause separation to occur, with the potential separation achieved by the membrane influenced strongly by the size and other characteristics of the pores.

Sirkar is the author of 156 refereed articles and 18 book chapters, and is a co-editor of the widely used Membrane Handbook. He is the editor of the Elsevier series Membrane Science and Technology and an associate editor of Separation Science and Technology. He has served (or is serving) on the editorial boards of the Journal of Membrane Science, Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, and Separation Science and Technology.

Sirkar’s many awards and honors include: the Kirkpatrick Award (1991); Honorary Fellow, Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers (2001); the AIChE Institute Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology (2005); the Clarence Gerhold Award of the Separations Division of AIChE (2008); and Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2008).

He received his PhD and MS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur. 

Last update: August 4, 09

Topics: chemical engineering, njit center for membrane technologies; membrane separation technologies, desalination, reverse-osmosis technology, kirkpatrick award, clarence gerhold award, american association for the advancement of science