Clarkson University PhD Student’s Research on Harvesting Water in Arid Climates Featured on Journal Cover of Molecular Systems Design & Engineering

June 15, 2023

The research of Clarkson University PhD student in Chemistry Charlene C. VanLeuven was recently highlighted on the front cover of one of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s flagship journals, Molecular Systems Design & Engineering, which was also featured in the journal’s Emerging Investigator Series.

Charlene C. VanLeuven and Mario Wriedt hold an enlarged cover of MSDE Journal

Led by Kodak CAMP Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biomolecular Science Dr. Mario Wriedt and funded by Wriedt’s NSF CAREER award the article, titled “Water harvesting properties of a zwitterionic metal–organic framework,” outlines research VanLeuven has conducted in collaboration with Dr. Juby R. Varghese, Wriedt Lab alumna and current Research Professor in Clarkson’s Center for Air and Aquatic Resources Engineering, exploring the use of a metal–organic framework (MOF) to harvest water from low-humidity environments.

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a class of highly porous materials that are structured similarly to a jungle gym, where the nodes represent metal clusters, the struts are organic ligands, and the pores of the framework are accessible for guest molecules.

The use of this particular MOF can allow water molecules to be harvested from arid environments, like a desert, where the resource is scarce. Wriedt said the MOF is highly efficient, having been tested in conditions as low as 10 percent humidity. 

Van Leuven added that this work is also a great example of how research sometimes can be made to work. It was only after the MOF was created that a way to use it for water harvesting was discovered.

“We first synthesized this MOF with different applications in mind but then we found it being very water-rich, so we were inspired by that. Omar Yaghi’s early work on similar MOFs helped us then to adapt and explore our MOF’s water harvesting potential,” she explained. 

Wriedt also noted that the water can be released from the MOF using solar energy. Since humidity is higher during nighttime hours, water can be absorbed when the sun is down. Once the sun rises, its thermal energy can desorb the water for collection. 

The article can be found by visiting

As a private, national research university, Clarkson is a leader in technological education and sustainable economic development through teaching, scholarship, research and innovation. We ignite personal connections across academic fields and industries to create the entrepreneurial mindset, knowledge and intellectual curiosity needed to innovate world-relevant solutions and cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the New York Capital Region, Beacon, N.Y., and New York City, Clarkson educates 4,000+ students across 95 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, the arts, education, sciences and health professions. Our alumni earn salaries that are among the top 2% in the nation and realize accelerated career growth. One in five already leads as a CEO, senior executive or owner of a company. To learn more about Clarkson University, go to
Photograph for media use is available at: