Tarabara research group
Environmental nanotechnology: membranes, particles, interfaces



From left to right: Brian Starr, Pejman Ahmadiannamini, Ala Ahmadiannamini, Vlad Tarabara, Emily Tummons, Andrii Gorobets, Claudio Calderon, Chris Crock, Miguel Herrera-Robledo, Hien Dang, Bin Guo.
Not in the picture: Charifa Hejase, Hang Shi, Aaron Rosenwinkel

Our research is in the area of water quality engineering with an emphasis on membrane separation processes and materials science of synthetic membranes. Our current projects fall under one of three themes:

Virus removal and concentration. To understand how viruses can be removed from water we work to elucidate mechanisms of virus adhesion to surfaces. We use this knowledge to design membranes that can concentrate viruses with high and reproducible recoveries. Such separations should enable accurate quantification of viruses.

Oil-water separation. Removal of finely dispersed oil from water is often required to meet environmental regulations. Unfortunately, the efficiency of status quo separation technologies decreases dramatically with a decrease in oil drop size. Membrane filtration can remove smaller drops but membrane fouling by oil limits broader acceptance of this technology. To overcome this limitation we seek mechanistic understanding of how oil drops and films behave at membrane surfaces. Our secondary interest is in cyclonic separations and hybrid technologies that combine rotating flow and crossflow membrane filtration.

Functional membrane materials. Historically, synthetic membranes have been developed to perform one function - that of separation. Coupling separation with reactions can bring about useful synergies from lower footprint to faster reactions to improved separation efficiency. We are exploring how nanomaterial-based functions can be introduced into polymeric and ceramic membrane matrices and applied to enhance environmentally-relevant reactions.

Research highlights

January 2015

Our paper Amjad, H.; Khan, Z.; Tarabara, V. V. Fractal structure and permeability of membrane cake layers: Effect of coagulation-flocculation and settling as pretreatment steps has been accepted for publication in the Separation and Purification Technology journal. We propose a simple method for estimating fractal dimension of membrane cakes (D) based on permeate flux data and Happel permeability model. We report a correlation, over a range of coagulation-flocculation condition, between D and the fractal dimension of flocs in the feed suspension. Financial support for Hira Amjad's year-long stay at MSU was provided by a scholarship from the Higher Education Commission and supplementary funding from the National University of Sciences & Technology, Pakistan.

Dcake determination

Illustration of the observed scaling that is indicative of the fractal structure of membrane cakes.
Scaling is shown only for the pretreatment condition that corresponds to
inline-contact filtration (i.e. coagulation and minimal flocculation)

June  2014

Our paper on virus concentration has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Membrane Science:
Pasco, E. V.; Shi, H.; Xagoraraki, I.; Hashsham, S. A.; Parent, K. N.; Bruening, M. L.; Tarabara, V. V. Polyelectrolyte multilayers as anti-adhesive membrane coatings for virus concentration and recovery, J. Membr. Sci. 2014, 469, 140–150. This is a collaboration with our MSU colleagues Merlin Bruening (Chemistry), Syed Hashsham (Environmental Engineering), Irene Xagoraraki (Environmental Engineering), and Kristin Parent (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology).

Elodie Hang JMS

November 2013

Our paper on polymer mesocomposite membranes has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Membrane Science: Dulebohn, J.; Ahmadiannamini, P.; Wang, T.; Kim, S.-S.; Pinnavaia, T. J.; Tarabara, V. V. Polymer mesocomposites: Ultrafiltration membrane materials with enhanced permeability, selectivity and fouling resistance.
J. Membr. Sci. 2014, 453, 478–488. This is a collaboration with Dr. Thomas Pinnavaia's research group.

mesocomposite UF membrane

September 2013

Our paper on the behavior of oil droplets in the vicinity of a micropore is published in the Journal of Membrane Science:  Darvishzadeh, T.; Tarabara, V. V.; Priezjev, N. V. Oil droplet behavior at a pore entrance in the presence of crossfow: Implications for microfiltration of oil-water dispersions. J. Membr. Sci. 2013, 447, 442-451. This is a collaboration with Dr. Nikolai Priezjev's research group.

oil droplet pinned at a micropore

Cross-sectional profiles of an oil droplet residing on the circular pore of 0.5 micron diameter
for several values of the capillary number, Ca.

June 2013

Our paper on graphene nanocomposite membranes is now published: Crock, C. A., Rogensues, A. R., Shan, W., Tarabara, V. V. Polymer nanocomposites with graphene-based hierarchical fillers as materials for multifunctional water treatment membranes. Water Res. 2013, 47, 3984-3996

June 2013

Our paper "Microsized particles of Aza222 polymer as a regenerable ultrahigh affinity sorbent for the removal of mercury from aqueous solutions" is accepted for publication in Separ. Purif. Technol. This is a collaboration with Dr. Ned Jackson's research group.

Adsorption isotherm for the mercury uptake by Aza222 sorbent

MSU photos

Aerial picture of MSU campus during spring


Red Cedar river on MSU campus during winter (photo courtesy of MSU Photography Services)