Center for Water Desalination and Reuse

Introduction

Center Director

  • Gary Amy,
    Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering

Center website

Vision

The vision is to raise the global and regional visibility of the Center in the strategic areas of water desalination and wastewater reuse, to increase awareness of existing and emerging technologies and practices/trends, and to provide a fertile multidisciplinary environment for applied scientists and engineers in both experimental research and process modeling.

Mission

The mission of the KAUST Center for Water Desalination and Reuse is to contribute research and development toward the integrated and sustainable exploitation of impaired-quality drinking water sources with a minimization of energy use, chemical use, waste residuals, environmental impact and carbon footprint. This mandate will serve Saudi Arabia, deprived of sufficient fresh water supplies and already heavily involved to desalination, as well as the proximate region spanning the Arabian Gulf/Peninsula, the Middle East, Northern/Eastern Africa, and South Asia. The Center will help thrust Saudi Arabia to the global forefront of desalination/reuse technology research, development, adaptation, and dissemination

 

Center Objectives and Approaches

The Center is being organized into two (interacting) groups:

  • Seawater and Brackish Water Desalination Group
    Emphasis on membrane-based desalination, with a focus on the coupling of treatment with energy considerations.
  • Wastewater Reclamation/Reuse Group
    Emphasis on membranes, other advanced processes, natural treatment systems, and hybrids, with a focus on promoting indirect potable reuse.

 

Multidisciplinary Areas of R&D Focus

Constraints of impaired-quality sources and corresponding water treatment challenges range from high salinity (seawater, estuarine waters, and brackish groundwater) to organic micropollutants and emerging pathogens (wastewater effluent) to trace metals and anthropogenic chemicals (urban storm water runoff). Drinking water treatment processes potentially targeting these and other contaminants include both separation processes (e.g., membrane filtration and adsorption) and transformation processes (e.g., oxidation and biotransformation), with process selectivity being a key attribute.

  • optimization of existing technologies (performance, energy, chemicals, environment, and costs);
  • hybridization of existing technologies (synergistic coupling of treatment processes with energy considerations).
  • development of new selective technologies (including nanotechnologies)
  • adaptation and resilience of technologies to local and changing (e.g., climate change) conditions.
  • knowledge dissemination (including technology transfer).
  • contributions to global economic development and the U.N. millennium development goals (MDGs) in water and sanitation (highlighting low-cost, adaptive desalination and reuse technologies).

Such an ambitious research agenda requires a multi-disciplinary approach of various engineering and scientific disciplines.

Center Niche

Of particular relevance are multi-objective (-contaminant) processes; individual processes serving as a robust barrier in reducing chemical and microbial risk; combinations of processes serving as synergistic multi-barriers; and process reliability. In all of these endeavors, a challenge is to extend knowledge to both large-scale and small-scale (decentralized) applications, and to reduce the unit cost of water through optimized and new technologies, and energy (e.g., solar-powered) hybrids.

Membrane Technology

In defining a unique niche for the Center, an emphasis is being placed on desalination and reuse through membrane technology. Among its attributes, seawater is a drought-proof (and unlimited) source which exhibits constant water quality (salinity and temperature) and has a low contamination potential. In order to further exploit this resource, major technological breakthroughs are needed in many areas of membrane technology. These include fouling assessment and control, pre- and post-treatment, cleaning, and concentrate/brine treatment and disposal including zero liquid discharge (ZLD). The further development of new membrane-based technologies, such as membrane distillation and forward osmosis, will also play an important role. In water desalination, the Center is emphasizing membrane-based desalination over thermal processes, a decision supported by recent technology and market trends.

      

  • Wastewater Reclamation/Reuse
    The Center is emphasizing technology development to promote potable reuse, both direct (pipe-to-pipe) and indirect (through use of a natural-system buffer); wastewater reuse for industry will also be addressed.
  • Urban Storm Water Management
    The Center emphasizes selective adsorbents (targeting trace metals) and natural infiltration systems for treatment and augmentation and subsurface storage. Of particular relevance are multi-objective (-contaminant) processes; individual processes serving as a robust barrier in reducing chemical and microbial risk; combinations of processes serving as synergistic multi-barriers; and process reliability. In all of these endeavors, a challenge is to extend knowledge to both large-scale and small-scale (decentralized) applications, and to reduce the unit cost of water through optimized and new technologies, and energy (e.g., solar-powered) hybrids.

 

Leveraged International Research by Partnership

International Partnerships

The Center for Water Desalination and Reuse is nurturing relationships with KAUST international partners and seeking potential new international partners. Developing and promoting these relationships based on envisioned synergies and leveraging of research funds. Specific partnerships already established include KAUST members of:

  • Academic Excellence Alliance (AEA): University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
  • Special Academic Partners (SAP): National University of Singapore (NUS).
  • Global Research Partners (GRP): Pennsylvania State University (PSU).
  • KAUST Industrial Collaboration Program (KCIP): Dow and Schlumberger.

Center-based Partnerships

  • Evolving relationships with the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) and General Electric (GE).
  • Exploring relationships with global consulting engineering firms, water services companies, and other leading research centers on desalination and/or reuse in Singapore, Korea, Qatar, and Oman.
  • Seeking partners to realize the CENTER’S responsibility to contribute to the U.N. MDGs

Interactions with Other KAUST Research Centers

Interactions with Other KAUST Research Centers

The Center for Water Desalination and Reuse plans to closely interface and target synergistic collaborations with the Membrane Research Center and the Solar Energy research Center.

  • Membrane Research Center
    Focusing on the application potential of new membrane materials/modules in water treatment (low fouling, enhanced rejection, higher permeability, and lower energy membranes).
  • Solar Energy Research Center
    Focusing on coupling treatment with energy requirements into hybrids such as membranes driven by solar energy, wind power, or other forms of renewable energy (minimizing on-grid/maximizing off-grid energy while lowering its carbon footprint).

 

Facilities and Equipment

The Center will initially occupy a multifunctional laboratory of 1,000 m2, later to be expanded to 2,000 m2. The Center laboratory will house lab- and (smaller) pilot-scale testing units as well as state-of-the-art analytical equipment (GC-MS, LC-MS, ICP-MS, LC-OCD, DOC, DON, IC, ATP, scanning fluorescence spectroscopy, scintillation counter, image analysis, FTIR, XRD, XRF, NMR, AFM, SEM/TEM, ESCA, zeta/potential/streaming current, contact angle, porosimeter, and many other techniques) available through Center facilities and KAUST-shared Core facilities. (Larger) pilot facilities are available for low- and high-pressure membranes for seawater desalination and wastewater reuse as well as soil passage.