Inventors of the Month - September 2016

This article was posted on: September 23, 2016

Zhen (Jason) He and Shiqiang Zou

“Electrolysis Assisted Mitigation of Reverse Salt Flux in Forward Osmosis Systems”

In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s sailors famously complained "Water, water, every where, | Nor any drop to drink." As readily available fresh water becomes more scarce, research and development of technologies for sustainable water and wastewater treatment and recovery become more important to society. Fortunately, Zhen (Jason) He is on the case!

He’s recent discoveries have included a way to maximize electricity generation from municipal wastewater and a system that uses bacteria to recover ammonia from wastewater so that it can be used in agriculture rather than polluting the watershed. You might have seen this article and cartoon ( about microbial fuel cells in VT News last winter.

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Zhen (Jason) He and Shiqiang Zou as Inventors of the Month for the invention, “Electrolysis Assisted Mitigation of Reverse Salt Flux in Forward Osmosis Systems,” disclosed to Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, Inc.

 Diagram of Electrolysis-assisted Forward Osmosis

The current invention is a set of operational strategies to reduce reverse solute flux (RSF) in forward osmosis (FO) systems. Since widespread implementation of desalination and treatment of wastewater for reuse is limited by high costs, this method to improve the efficiency of these technologies could help to make them more commercially viable.

Photo of inventor Zhen (Jason) HeJason He is an Associate Professor in the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Prior to this position, he was an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. He received his bachelor’s degree from Tongji University, his master’s from the Technical University of Denmark, and his Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, all in environmental engineering. He holds 2 U.S. patents and has published more than 120 journal papers. He has graduated 5 Ph.D. students and 8 M.S. students.

Shiqiang Zou is a Ph.D. student focusing on wastewater treatment and resource recovery. He received his B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Beijing Institute of Technology, and two master’s degrees – one in environmental engineering from Peking University, and one in chemistry from National University of Singapore.

logo for VTIP



VTIP facilitates the licensing of technology to companies, encourages new faculty startup ventures, works with publishers and distributors of software, and supports the transfer of research and knowledge to other universities, research institutes and companies.

Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties
Campus Mail Code 0459
2200 Kraft Drive, Suite 1050
Blacksburg, VA 24060