Past Fellows


Brendan Smith

Postdoctoral Fellow, Grossman Group
“Resilient Silicon Filtration Membranes for Treatment of Textiles Wastewater”


Brendan Smith used his Kavanaugh Translational Fellowship to develop ultra-durable filtration silicone membranes for challenging, resource intensive industrial separations. One example is the treatment and recycling of textiles effluent.  The textiles industry produces more than 1 trillion gallons of waste water a year in India alone, and 80% enters waterways untreated, causing significant environmental degradation.  Most current water treatment is done through thermal distillation, which can account for 25% of a mill’s operating expenses.  Membrane filtration presents an attractive alternative, but no current membrane is sufficiently durable or low-cost.  To address this challenge, Brendan and Professor Jeffrey Grossman have developed a silicon nanofiltration membrane.  Produced from common low-cost silicon via a patented chemical etching technique, The membrane provides greater selectivity than competing ceramic membranes, while offering chemical and thermal resilience that far exceeds state-of-the-art polymeric alternatives.

During his fellowship, Brendan showed his technology at key trade shows, created relationships with contract manufacturers and hit key technical milestones to demonstrate value to the textiles industry.  In 2020, Brendan was awarded the Activate Fellowship to launch his company, SiTration, Inc.

“As a cleantech startup founder with the goal of commercializing an early-stage materials technology, I benefited immensely from the support of the Kavanaugh Fellowship. High caliber research institutions like MIT facilitate fundamental and applied research with amazing success, and also open countless doors to growth-stage venture capital and corporate partnerships once a technology is ready to be scaled. A gap exists, however, in which product-market fit, customer discovery, and proof-of-concept validation constitute mission-critical activities. The Kavanaugh Fellowship helps bridge this gap by allowing recipients to explore these crucial facets of their future business with a flexibility that few other resources provide. Without this support, I would not be on the path I am today.”