Smith's desalination paper among top 10 most-read


Miranda Holloway, MechSE Communications

MechSE Assistant Professor Kyle Smith and graduate student Rylan Dmello’s paper titled, “Na-Ion Desalination (NID) Enabled by Na-Blocking Membranes and Symmetric Na-Intercalation: Porous-Electrode Modeling,” published in January by the Journal of the Electrochemical Society has been one of the top 10 most-read articles for five months—and as of July, occupied the number two spot on the list. The journal’s “most read” rankings are based on full-text and pdf views.
Smith’s paper details how sodium-ion batteries, which contain salt water, can be used in desalination
“It opens up a new space of materials development for people in the battery community because it uses materials that are commonly used in battery research, but we’ve also introduced a new device for desalination,” he said. 
Along with having an impact on the battery and desalination communities, Smith is finding his place in the field of electrochemistry—one that is interdisciplinary and typically populated by chemists, chemical engineers, materials scientists, and physicists. Mechanical engineers, however, rarely work in the field. 
“I’m glad we can get a stake in the ground with this work and to demonstrate one way in which mechanical engineers can apply their skills to this field,” Smith said. “I’m excited, too, for the technological impact that this could have. I think that there’s a lot of potential for even greater developments and advancements using this type of device.”   
The success of the paper has helped inform others about the technology and more people are getting involved in the research, according to Smith. He and his group are also continuing their work on the topic, focusing on material synthesis, electrode fabrication, and experimental cycling of electrochemical cells. 
As a young faculty member, Smith said he is excited about this early success and where it could lead in the future.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities because this device could be used as a battery to store energy, not only to desalinate water, and the coupling between energy demand and water demand could be important in the future. We have a device that could actually modulate those two together, which is really exciting.” 
Smith joined the MechSE department in 2014 after working as a post-doctoral research associate at MIT. He earned a BS in 2007 and a PhD in 2012, both in mechanical engineering, from Purdue University.