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Winter 2016 |

WDRC NEWS FROM THE DIRECTOR 2016 is well on its way, and I would like to take the opportunity to wish all our readers a prosperous and successful new year. When transitioning from one year to another, we tend to look back at the past year and reflect over key events and experiences, highlighting the good ones and wondering what lies in store for the weeks to come. 2015 was a busy year and provided many good memories and achievements for WDRC. The Center’s activity is reflected in the number of journal publications over the last year, the participation of Center faculty and students PROF. TOROVE LEIKNES, CENTER DIRECTOR at various international conferences, a number of graduations and so on. It is particularly rewarding when students at WDRC are recognized at these events by receiving prizes for best student oral presentation/paper and poster awards (see highlights). Dissemination of research results through hosting and (co-)organizing various events has been an important activity for the Center. Industry engagement is also an important mission at WDRC and is focused around our CIAP (Center Industry Affiliates Program) activities, with the 6th annual CIAP Workshop held last November. WDRC seeks to further strengthen industry engagement and develop new collaborative efforts with international partners. During 2015, four new MoUs with key international partners were established, and we are anticipating a few more to be finalized in 2016. Through developing good collaborative activities with key international partners, WDRC aims to increase its contribution to the advancement of desalination and water reuse. Looking ahead, 2016 should be an exciting year. To highlight some aspects, WDRC will exhibit as part of the KAUST booth at the Saudi Water and Electricity Forum (SWEF) to be held in Riyadh from February 7-9; WDRC will host the “International Conference on Physics & Chemistries at Hydrophobic Interfaces” from February 14-17; & our weekly EnSE Seminar Series continues with invited guest speakers from around the world. We look forward to continuing and strengthening our collaboration with partners in academia, research, industry and governance.

PUBLICATIONS During 2015, WDRC faculty, research scientists, postdoctoral fellows and students published several research articles in international peerreviewed journals and attended and participated in many conferences and workshops around the world. * Data collected from faculty contribution and Scopus as of January 2016.

WDRC News | Winter 2016


WDRC SPIN-OFFS WDRC has received seed funding for the creation of five spinoff companies (shown below) from the KAUST Innovation Fund. The fund makes equity investments in startups and early-stage companies and allows KAUST to become a long-term strategic partner of these ventures.




1. Dr. Ahmad Alsaadi 2. Dr. Lijo Francis 3. Prof. Noreddine Ghaffour


GreenDesal is a startup established in 2013 using a seed fund grant received from the Economic Development at KAUST. Three experts in the field, Dr. Ahmad Alsaadi, Dr. Lijo Francis and Prof. Noreddine Ghaffour, are the co-founders. GreenDesal introduces an alternative and attractive patent-pending technology known as Vacuum Enhanced Air Gap Membrane Distillation (VAGMED) with a novel perspective for the reclamation of fresh water from impaired water quality, such as seawater and industrial/domestic wastewater at very low cost and energy using renewable or low-grade waste energy sources.

Q: What makes GreenDesal special compared to other technologies? A: GreenDesal holds a potential of being a cost effective, environmentally friendly separation

process that can utilize low-grade waste heat or alternative energy sources such as solar and lowenthalpy geothermal energy. These are abundantly available, especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. GreenDesal introduces a novel patent-pending multistage membrane distillation (MSMD) unit for water desalination that offers many advantages over the conventional technologies such as being more sustainable, compact, modular, simple, scalable, environmentally friendly and can be built at lower cost using non-expensive materials that are non-amenable to corrosion. MSMD is a promising and sustainable technology for several applications, such as recovery of expensive metals from seawater via crystallization, seawater desalination, desalination brines treatment and wastewater or produced water treatment for fresh water reclamation to meet the increasing world water demand.

Q: What is the product development status of GreenDesal? A: The technical proof of concept of the MD has been conducted using small scale testing unit at the WDRC Lab. The test lasted

for more than four years using new membranes synthesized at WDRC as well as commercially available membranes (flat sheet and hollow fibers). Patent-pending pilot scale single MD module was fabricated in the Czech Republic and was successfully tested at WDRC on Red Sea water. Now GreenDesal is moving forward to complete the construction of 1 m3/day pilot unit as a demonstration plant to our valuable customers and future partners. Larger pilot plants (5 and 10 m3/day) will be designed and tested after learning from the small pilot plant results.

Q: What is the market size and customer target of GreenDesal? A: The global desalination market is projected at about USD 3 billion in the next three years, with a growth of 55% for the

subsequent years. Saudi Arabia represents about 18% of the global value. GreenDesal has a great potential for commercialization in the near future and we are expecting a market share of about 5%-10% (mainly medium and small scale units). Furthermore, the MD process can meet other potential markets such as produced water, hot springs and wastewater treatment, as well as value added metal recovery from brines. Potential customers are the main water sectors in Saudi Arabia and similar sectors in other MENA countries and worldwide.

WDRC News | Winter 2016


STRENGTHENING WDRC COMPUTATIONAL MODELING Clean water accessibility is one of the key technological and socio-economic challenges confronting the world today. In such a context, it is imperative to develop monetarily alluring water desalination technologies. WDRC is quite in tune with the demands of the time and is dedicated to pioneering and delivering cutting-edge desalination and reuse technologies. Several aspects of the proposed desalination technological projects rely on a fundamental understanding of the phenomena taking place at elemental levels. This understanding is vital in the various design aspects of bioreactors, membrane filtration systems and thermal/solar driven desalination processes. Elucidating the fundamental science behind the different phenomena in water desalination processes at varying spatial and temporal scales is an intriguing and challenging task. Data obtained from bench-top or field experiments are usually limited and more data are always associated with cost overheads. Computational modeling presents a new dimension in identifying the basic scientific principles behind a process at any desired scale. It is an excellent tool that can be used in the design process to simulate various design alternatives, to develop solutions and to evaluate operating strategies. It further facilitates efficient and quick physical understanding of a component or a process to determine its performance and efficiency across diverse parameters. When integrated with advanced CAD, high performance/super-computing and visualization technology, it has the ability to scale processes/design from bench-top to pilot investigation and ultimately to industrial scale applications. Computational/system modeling has emerged as one of the most important fields of study that plays a significant role in modern engineering/process environment. Dr. Adnan Qamar has recently joined WDRC as system modeling specialist. His hope and vision is to play a pivotal role in strengthening WDRC’s modeling projects. His expertise in fluid dynamics primarily focuses on computational physics, compressible flows, bio-fluids, bubble dynamics, bio-transport and fluid structure coupling in biological and engineering systems. His research focus is on inter-disciplinary amalgamation of mathematical tools which is crucial in improving our understanding of water-related technologies. Dr. Qamar has a proven track record of employing methods drawn from a variety of scientific disciplines and from a bevy of new or improved models in order to successfully address both existing and open problems in applied engineering systems. In accord with his vision for the advancement of WDRC, he is actively engaged in its research projects (design optimization of membrane spacers [Figure 1], static and dynamic modeling of membrane biofilms, direct contact membrane filtration, capillary driven flows, etc.) that have great relevance in advanced hydrodynamics and in CFD modeling. He provides input and consultation to help researchers better plan and design experiments and facilitates training to the users to enable them to conduct independent research using modeling tools. Figure 1 : (a) Simplified CAD for membrane spacer cell configuration (b) Iso-surface of Y-velocity component explicitly revealing region of high permeate flux (Largest data set run, 7 Million grid point calculation on HPC cluster with 256 cores).

WDRC News | Winter 2016




WDRC held its 6th Annual Center Industry Affiliates Program (CIAP) on November 10-12, 2015. More than 40 participants (primarily from CIAP members and observers, along with WDRC faculty members and researchers) participated in this three-day event at KAUST. On the first day of the CIAP meeting, two keynote speeches were delivered. Mark Crowell, recently appointed VP of Innovation & Economic Development (I&ED) at KAUST, discussed the importance of forging high-value collaboration between KAUST and industry, highlighting the role of KAUST as a catalyst for innovation and economic development in Saudi Arabia and the world. Dr. Pierre Côté (president of COTE Membrane Separation Ltd.) delivered the second keynote speech entitled “Innovation in Water Treatment: How to Get from Ideas to Products.” On the second day, Prof. Pierre Magistretti, dean of the KAUST Biological, Environmental Science and Engineering Division, welcomed the participants to the 6th Annual CIAP meeting. This was followed by a keynote speech by KAUST Professor Burton Jones from the Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) entitled “Ocean Observing for Coastal Water Use Applications.” Serry Bakarman, director, KAUST Research & Technology Park (R&TP), presented an update on the R&TP activities. WDRC is excited and is looking forward to welcoming its partners again for the next annual meeting planned for late 2016 at KAUST.

WDRC News | Winter 2016


2015 HIGHLIGHTS JANUARY Prof. Kim Choon’s project on “Hybrid Multi-Effect Adsorption Desalination: An Emerging High Efficiency and Low Cost Desalination” w ​ as a winner of the Global Technology Challenge Competition at the Saudi Water and Power Forum 2015. Aramco Entrepreneurship Center and GE ecomagination launched the competition to promote a culture of technology-based entrepreneurship and venturing in the area of seawater desalination using renewable energy in the Kingdom. Two outstanding WDRC members won awards at the KAUST 2016 Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) Research Poster Competition. Postdoctoral fellow Abdou Abdouelmagd won an award for his poster entitled “Recharge regimes of the Saq Aquifer System in Saudi Arabia,” and was supervised by Prof. Matthew McCabe. Ph.D. candidate Poornima Madhavan won an award for her poster entitled “Asymmetric Block Copolymer Isoporous Membranes- Complexation with Silver and Gold,” and was supervised by Prof. Suzana Nunes.

FEBRUARY KAUST welcomed representatives from its industrial and scientific partners to the University’s campus for the sixth Annual KAUST Industry Advisory Board (KIAB) meeting. Prof. TorOve Leiknes attended the meeting, which focused on ensuring ongoing alignment of KAUST’s academic, research and economic development activities with industry. WDRC faculty attended the AMPMC/KAUST Research Conference on Recent Developments in Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials for Energy, Environmental and Water Applications. The conference focused on the areas of membranes for energy-enhanced output, clean environment and novel functional materials.

MARCH The KAUST School (TKS) grade five students visited WDRC. Ph.D. students from the Center gave the schoolchildren and teachers a tour of the laboratories and an introduction to the research done at WDRC. The KAUST community is very involved in water reuse, water conservation and increasing global public awareness about these important issues.

WDRC News | Winter 2016


APRIL WDRC hosted the EU Delegation visit to the Center’s laboratories. The delegation was present on campus for the Horizon 2020 workshop, a large EU research and innovation program with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the laboratory to the market.

MAY WDRC students, researchers and faculty attended the Desalination for Clean Water and Energy Cooperation among Mediterranean Countries of Europe and the MENA Region (EuroMed) in Palermo, Italy. This was the seventh conference in the EuroMed series and the ninth in the Mediterranean region. It provided an excellent forum for professionals, scientists and technologists in all aspects of water desalination.

WDRC’s Ph.D. student Ryan Lefers received the best poster award at the European Desalination Society EuroMed Conference. His poster entitled “Liquid Desiccant Dehumidification and Regeneration Process to Meet Cooling and Fresh Water Needs of Desert Greenhouses” was co-authored by Srivatsa Bettahalli, Prof. TorOve Leiknes and Prof. Suzana Nunes. Several members of WDRC attended the Engineering with Membranes Conference in Beijing. EWM 2015 was hosted by the Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences and covered different fields of membrane science and engineering.

AUGUST WDRC co-organized the DesalTech 2015 event together with the International Desalination Association (IDA) prior to the IDA World Congress in San Diego, California, USA. The conference focused specifically on research in emerging water desalination technologies for municipal and industrial applications.

Ph.D. candidate Gerald Matar was awarded at the 250th ACS National Meeting, division of Environmental Chemistry in the ASC symposium “MicroorganismMembrane Interactions: Towards Understanding Pathogen Removal and Membrane Biofouling.” His presentation entitled “Initiation and succession of biofouling communities on hydrophobic and hydrophilic membrane surfaces in a submerged membrane bioreactor” was supervised by Prof. Pascal Saikaly.

WDRC News | Winter 2016


SEPTEMBER Ph.D. candidate Joline El-Chakhtoura won the runner-up prize at the Berlin Falling Walls Challenge. Falling Walls was established in Berlin in 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Joline’s presentation was entitled “Breaking the Wall of Waste-to-Energy.” It addressed two walls: clean, decentralized energy and safe, treated waste. She is advised by Prof. Johannes Vrouwenvelder.

OCTOBER A delegation from the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry of the University of Pisa toured WDRC and KAUST. The aim of the visit was to set in motion a program of scientific collaboration and student exchange between the two universities. The delegation was composed of the director, coordinator of the doctoral School of Chemical and Material Sciences and coordinator for internationalization in the area of chemistry.

NOVEMBER The CIAP hosted its 6th Annual Meeting. Over 40 participants, including industry partners, observers and faculty, joined the three-day meeting, and were updated on the Center’s research activities.

​Ph.D. student Luca Fortunato won an award for best oral presentation at the 8th International Desalination Workshop (IDW) 2015 in Jeju, South Korea. His presentation title was “A novel approach for spatially-resolved quantification of biofouling in membrane systems using optical coherence tomography (OCT) and 3D image analysis,” and he is advised by Prof. TorOve Leiknes. The 4th Annual SAB meeting took place at WDRC in November. Five Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) members participated in this meeting to guide WDRC to meet its strategic research agenda and goals.

DECEMBER KAUST welcomed families and distinguished guests to share in the celebration of the University’s 2015 Commencement ceremony. WDRC celebrated the commencement of Gerald Matar, who was advised by Prof. Pascal Saikaly. Matar received his Ph.D. degree at the ceremony. He had his Ph.D. dissertation defense on November 17, 2015, which focused on “Characterization of Membrane Foulants in Full-scale and Labscale Membrane Bioreactors for Wastewater Treatment and Reuse.”

WDRC News | Winter 2016


February 14-17, 2016 at KAUST WDRC is organizing a gathering of leaders in academic research on Physics and Chemistries of Hydrophobic Interfaces from February 14 to 17, 2016. Leading experimentalists and theorists from around the world will share their insights on the complexities of hydrophobic interactions and will identify unique challenges and opportunities for fundamental and solution-driven collaborative research. KAUST’s industrial partners are invited to participate in stimulating conversations and panel discussions. The topics will be: 1. Origins of hydrophobic interactions 2. Chemistries at hydrophobic interfaces 3. Latest experimental and theoretical results For more information, visit: * This event is organized by WDRC with financial support form the KAUST Office of Sponsored Research, KAUST Industry Collaboration Program (KICP) and the Industry Engagement Office.

SPRING SEMINAR SERIES The Center hosts several visitors each semester for the Environmental Science and Engineering/ WDRC Seminar Series. The following visitors will present during the spring 2016 series: January 31: Assoc. Prof. Hokyong Shon, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia February 7: Dr. Sherub Phuntsho, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia February 21: Dr. Sofiane Soukane, Institute of Marine Science and Coastal Management, Algiers February 28: Prof. Roger Ben Aim, Institute for Filtration and Liquid Solid Separation, France March 13: Prof. Chung-Hak Lee, Seoul National University, Korea March 27: Prof. Joanna Shisler, University of Illinois, USA Spring break April 17: Prof. Bruce Logan, Penn State University, USA April 24: Prof. Xiaochang Wang, Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology, China For more details, visit: Water Desalination and Reuse Center King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia WDRC News | Winter 2016

Director: TorOve Leiknes • Coordinator: Laura Ochoa • Contact: +966 (0) 12 808 4967


WDRC Newsletter Issue 14  
WDRC Newsletter Issue 14