Jeffrey McCutcheon

Associate Professor

Al Geib Professor of Environmental Engineering Research and Education

Ph.D., Yale University (2007)

Current Research

  • Membrane separations for sustainable water and energy production
  • Forward osmosis and pressure retarded osmosis
  • Electrospun nanofibers for water and wastewater treatment applications
  • Thin film composite membrane design and fabrication
  • Polymeric membrane characterization
  • Novel electrode design for microbial fuel cell
  • Activated carbon nanofiber cloths
  • Porous materials characterization
  • Water technology for the developing world

Professional Activities

Organizer: 2015 North American Membrane Society Annual meeting in Boston, MA
2015 ACS Polymer Membrane Water Filtration Workshop, Pacific Grove, CA
: Separations Division, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
Board of Directors: North American Membrane Society
Chair of Technical Standards Committee: International Forward Osmosis Association
Guest Editor:
Special Issue of Desalination on Forward Osmosis
Faculty advisor: Engineers without Borders, USA-UCONN
: North American Membrane Society
Member: American Institute of Chemical Engineering
Member: American Chemical Society
Member: Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors
Member: American Water Works Association
Member: International Forward Osmosis Association

Current Research Group

Ph.D. Students M.S. Students
Undergraduate Students
Visiting Students
Seetha ManickamLiwei HuangDan AnastasioJason ArenaJian RenMaqsudar Chwodhury Kevin ReimundZhao Ma Malgorzata ChwatkoGabriella FreyGianna CredaroliHolly Robillard Basma WaisiMustafa Al FarijiAlan AmbrosioHui Gong

Research Statement

mccutcheon_group_logoDr. McCutcheon currently directs the Sustainable Water and Energy Learning Laboratory (SWELL) at UConn. This lab houses multiple research projects which involve emerging technologies for water treatment and water-based energy technologies.

Mission Statement: Our research goal is to enable technologies that leverage low grade energy sources for sustainable water and energy production.  We will achieve this through innovative materials and process design

Our active research projects include:

NOVEL MEMBRANES FOR FORWARD OSMOSIS: Forward osmosis is an emerging membrane separation process based on the natural tendency of water to flow from a solution of low solute concentration to one of higher concentration. In this process, feedwater (seawater, brackish water or wastewater) flows along one side of a membrane, while a more concentrated ‘draw’ solution or osmotic agent flows on the opposite side of the membrane. Clean water permeates through the membrane from the feed water to the draw solution leaving salts, contaminants and other feed solutes behind as a concentrated brine stream. This separation process requires no energy. The draw solution can then either be used or removed, recovered and recycle. Some have estimated this method could realize a 50% cost savings over RO in certain applications combined with dramatically lower carbon footprints. This research program focuses on developing novel thin film composite membrane structures tailored to forward osmosis specifications.

NOVEL MEMBRANES FOR PRESSURE RETARDED OSMOSIS: Pressure retarded osmosis is an emerging renewable energy technology which, like forward osmosis, involves osmotic flow of water across a semi-permeable membrane. The osmotic flow is harnessed by a hydroturbine where it is converted to electricity. Naturally occurring osmotic pressure gradients (river deltas) and engineered gradients (osmotic engines) both rely on an appropriately designed membrane for efficient conversion of energy from osmotic pressure to electricity. This research program involves modifying commercial reverse osmosis membranes and designing new membranes for use in pressure retarded osmosis processes.

NEW DRAW SOLUTIONS FOR FORWARD OSMOSIS AND OSMOTIC HEAT ENGINES: We are working with national and international partners to design and test new draw solutions for FO and closed loop PRO applications. These draw solutions have been designed or chosen based on their hydrodynamic and molecular properties.

NOVEL MICROBIAL FUEL CELL ANODE USING ACTIVATED CARBON NANOFIBER: The microbial fuel cell is an emerging wastewater treatment technology that utilizes electrogenic bacteria to digest organic contaminants in wastewater while simultaneously producing electricity. The cogeneration of treated wastewater with electricity offer a unique technology that may be a self sustaining wastewater treatment option. This research program is currently funded by the National Science Foundation and involves fabricating an activated carbon nanofiber from an electrospun precursor. Professor Baikun Li, assistant professor in the Environmental Engineering Program, is a collaborator on the project.

NOVEL MEMBRANE CHARACTERIZATION METHODS: Thin film composite membrane characterization has often been limited to the selective layer. However, with ever increasing importance being placed on the structural properties of the support layer (especially in forward osmosis), novel characterization techniques will be needed to quantify structural properties. Various porosimetry techniques are being used to quantify the pore properties of membrane support layers while highly innovative imaging techniques, including MicroCT and focused ion beam SEM, will lead to three dimensional imaging of these structures.

CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PEDAGOGY DEVELOPMENT USING MEMBRANES: Membranes offer a unique opportunity for teaching fundamental engineering principles to undergraduate chemical engineers. Dr. McCutcheon and his students have developed a senior unit operations laboratory module based on reverse osmosis and forward osmosis. During this lab, students must calculate fundamental membrane constants (permeability and selectivity) while learning how process parameters and membrane design and chemistry impact performance.

ZERO ENERGY WATER PURIFIER FOR THE DEVELOPING WORLD:  Nearly one-billion people in the world today lack access to safe drinking water.  Our hope is to bring a clean, safe and nutritious drink to those vulnerable to or afflicted with waterborn illness. In collaboration with Hydration Technologies Innovation, we are evaluating the Hydrowell System for use in harsh environments. With proper engineering, these commercial systems should be able to provide essential nutrients and electrolytes to victims of natural disaster or refugees without costly transport of bottled water. This project is being conducted through an existing USAID/HED project with the Environmental Engineering Program and with Engineers without Borders, USA-UCONN.

Previous Positions

2007-2008 Chief Engineer, Stonybrook Purification
2007-2008 Research Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University
2002-2007 Graduate Research Assistant, Yale University,
2005-2006 Graduate Teaching Assistant, Yale University
2000-2002 Teaching Assistant, University of Dayton
2000-2001 Engineering Intern, YSI, Inc., Yellow Springs, OH
1999 Engineering Intern, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Materials Directorate

Awards & Honors

2014 FRI/John G. Kunesh Award
2013 Named a DuPont Young Professor
2011 Solvay Advanced Polymers Young Faculty Award
2011 Environmental Protection Agency Early Career Award
2011 3M Untenured Faculty Award

Student Awards

2014 Student Poster Award, Jian Ren
2014 NAMS Travel Award, ICOM 2014, Liwei Huang
2014 NAMS Graduate Student Poster Award, 1st place, Jason Arena
2014 General Electric Fellowship, Jian Ren
2014 Elias Klein Travel Award, Maqsud Chowdhury
2014 AMTA Graduate Student Poster Award, Jason Arena
2013 NAMS Graduate Student Poster Award, 2nd place, Ngoc Bui
2013 Elias Klein Travel Award, Liwei Huang
2013 Marshall Scholarship, Ethan Butler
2013 Udall Scholarship, Ethan Butler
2013 University Scholar, Andrew Silva
2012 University Scholar, Ethan Butler
2012 NAMS Travel Award, Ngoc Bui
2012 NWRI-AMTA Fellowship, Jason Arena
2011 GK-12 Fellowship, Jason Arena

Selected Publications

Huang, L. Arena, J.T., Manickam, SS., Jiang, X., Willis, B.G., McCutcheon, J.R. “Improved Mechanical Properties and Hydrophilicity of Electrospun Nanofiber Membranes for Filtration Applications by Dopamine Modification”, Journal of Membrane Science 460, 2014, 241-249.

Huang, L., McCutcheon, J.R., “Nylon 6,6 Nanofiber Supported Membranes for Engineered Osmosis”, Journal of Membrane Science 457, 2014, 162-169.

Bui, N., McCutcheon, J.R. “Nanofiber Supported Thin-Film Composite Membranes for Pressure Retarded Osmosis”, Environmental Science and Technology48, 2014, 4129-4136.

Manickam, SS, McCutcheon, J.R., “Pore Structure Characterization of Asymmetric Membranes: Non-destructive Characterization of Porosity and Tortuosity”,Journal of Membrane Science 454, 2014, 549-554.

Arena, J.T., Manickam, SS, Reimund, K., Freeman, B., McCutcheon, J.R., “Polydopamine modified thin film composite membranes for forward osmosis: Evaluation of water flux and desalination potential, Desalination, 343, 2014, 8-16.

Ren, J., McCutcheon, J.R. “New Commercial Thin Film Composite Forward Osmosis Membrane”, Desalination 343, 2014, 187-193.

Huang, L., Bui, N., Meyering, M.T., Hamlin, T.J., McCutcheon, J.R., “Novel Hydrophilic Nylon 6,6 Microfiltration Membrane Supported Thin Film Composite Membranes for Engineered Osmosis”, Journal of Membrane Science 437, 2013, 141-149.

Huang, L., Manickam, SS, McCutcheon, J.R., “Increasing Strength of Electrospun Nanofiber Membranes for Water Filtration using Solvent Vapor”, Journal of Membrane Science 436, 2013, 213-220.

Bui, N.N., McCutcheon, J.R., “Hydrophilic Nanofibers as New Supports for Thin Film Composite Membranes for Engineered Osmosis”, Environmental Science and Technology 47, 2013, 1761-1769.

Butler, E., Silva, A., Horton, K., Rom, Z., Chwatko, M., Havasov, A., McCutcheon, J.R. “Point of Use Water Treatment with Forward Osmosis for Emergency Relief”, Desalination 312, 2013, 23-30.

Manickam, SS., Udayarka, K., Huang, L., Bui, N.N., Li, B., McCutcheon, J.R., “Activated Carbon Nanofiber Anodes for Microbial Fuel Cells”, Carbon 53, 2013, 19-28.

Manickam, S.S., McCutcheon, J.R., “Characterization of polymeric nonwovens using porosimetry, porometry and x-ray computed tomography”, Journal of Membrane Science, 407-408, 2012, 108-115.

Anastasio, D., McCutcheon, J.R. “Teaching mass transfer and filtration using crossflow  reverse osmosis and nanofiltration: An experiment for the  undergraduate unit operations laboratory”, Chemical Engineering Education, Winter 2012.

Huang, L., Bui, N., Manickam, S., McCutcheon, J.R., Controlling Nanofiber Morphology and Mechanical Properties Using Humidity, Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics 49, 2011, 1734-1744.

Bui, N. Lind, M.L., Hoek, E.M.V., McCutcheon, J.R., Electrospun Nanofiber Supported Thin Film Composite Membranes for Engineered Osmosis, Journal of Membrane Science 385-386, 2011, 10-19.

Arena, J., McCloskey, B., Freeman, B.D., McCutcheon, J.R., “Surface modification of thin film composite membrane support layers: Enabling reverse osmosis membranes for use in pressure retarded osmosis”, Journal of Membrane Science 375, 2011, 55-62


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Contact Information
Phone(860) 486-4601
Mailing Address191 Auditorium Road, Unit 3222, Storrs, CT 06269-3222
Office LocationEII-207