INM junior scientist receives Leibniz PhD prize for research on electrochemical water desalination

How can undrinkable water be purified of salts and pollutants so that it becomes drinking water? Dr. Pattarachai Srimuk’s doctoral thesis researched electrochemical methods and materials that can remove large quantities of unwanted substances. For his outstanding doctoral thesis, the Leibniz Association awarded the young scientist the Leibniz Promotion Prize 2020 in the category “Natural and Technical Sciences”, which is endowed with 5000 euros. Srimuk conducts research at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials in Saarbrücken in the group “Energy Materials” of Prof. Volker Presser and received his doctorate under his supervision at Saarland University in August 2019.

“When I came to Germany from Thailand in 2015, I was very surprised that you can drink water from the tap here. That would be unthinkable in Thailand,” says Srimuk, explaining his motivation. “Clean drinking water for everyone is one of the great challenges of our time. Technologies already exist for the treatment of saltwater and wastewater to produce drinking water, but they use a lot of energy. Therefore, the development of alternative technologies is urgently needed to make the production of drinking water more environmentally friendly and cheaper”.

The method for producing drinking water presented in Srimuk’s dissertation is based on the so-called electrochemical water desalination. Here, the water to be purified flows through a structure with two electrodes that attract and store positive and negative ions. By the way, this also stores energy, which can be released when required. With the first generation process, ion electrosorption (Capacitive Deionisation, CDI), in which activated carbon was used as the electrode material, only water with a low salt content could be treated, i.e. it was not suitable for seawater. Srimuk’s research into other electrode materials therefore focused on non-carbonaceous materials. This second-generation process (Faradaic Deionisation, FDI) uses so-called charge transfer materials, as found in batteries. In this way, he managed to increase the amount of salts separated by a factor of ten.

“I am proud that my work has received so much recognition and will continue to research in this direction. For example, a third-generation method based on metal-air batteries will enable us to remove even far greater quantities of salts from water,” the prize-winner explains his plans. “For me, my doctoral thesis was the first step towards new sustainable technologies for a greener, more sustainable world in which all people have access to clean drinking water.”

Dr. Pattarachai Srimuk was already awarded the UMSICHT Science Prize 2020 in early October. This prize is awarded by the Sponsoring Association of the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology to people whose work brings sustainable benefits for the environment and society.


Your contact person:
Dr. Pattarachai Srimuk
E-Mail: [email protected]
Phone: +49 (0)681-9300-247