Global water shortages: Membrane nanotechnology for water resources development

Nidal Hilal (Centre for Clean Water Technologies, Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre, Swansea University, United Kingdom)

Location: Sala de Graus, ETSEQ
Start time: Oct. 8, 2010, 12 p.m.


The amount of currently available fresh water on earth is in continuous decline due to rapidly increased consumption as a result of population growth, industrial use and climate change. According to new findings, one in three people are enduring one form or another of water scarcity. Therefore there is an urgent need to address such world water shortages. Membrane technology increasingly proves to be one of the most practical solutions and the application of nanotechnology to membrane separation processes has shown to be extremely valuable to reduce cost and improve efficiency.
The lecture will focus on the global water shortages and will show how the application of nanotechnology and in particular, Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to membrane separation processes, can provide us with modern tools that may be applied for further costs reduction of water. Professor Hilal’s research has focused in the last 15 years on developing and applying nanotechnology to process engineering, particularly in the fields of water treatment, membrane separation, (bio)colloidal interactions and the measurement of complex fluid properties. A major recent achievement has been the development of the smallest colloid probe reported in the literature, the coated colloid probe technique and the cell probe technique. The presentation will focus on the use of such probes to quantify directly the force of interaction of coated colloid or microbiological cells in a direction normal to the membrane surface, at which the interaction is taking place. The potential of the technique has been demonstrated when such probes are used to assess the rejection of colloids at the entrance to membrane pores, and the adhesive characteristics (fouling) of synthetic membranes. The presentation will also show the recent development of AFM as a nano-viscometer.

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About Nidal Hilal

Institution: Centre for Clean Water Technologies, Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre, Swansea University, United Kingdom

Professor Hilal’s research interests lie broadly in the identification of innovative and cost-effective solutions to real world process engineering problems within the fields of water treatment, membrane technology and the engineering applications of atomic force microscopy. Since arriving at the University of Nottingham in 2001, he has developed a highly successful research portfolio pursuing high quality curiosity-driven and strategically significant research. He has established a very wide range of international research collaborations.

Professor Hilal has published around 300 articles in the refereed scientific literature. His work has also been published widely in highly reputable journals, refereed international conference proceedings and invited book chapters. He has also published a pioneering new book on Atomic Force Microscopy in Process Engineering. The co-authors on many of his publications reflect the strong international links which he has established.

Professor Hilal has been the co-chairman of a pioneering international research event at the University of Oxford on Water and Membranes. He has also been invited to act as a member of the scientific committees in international conferences and delivered a numerous number of invited lectures around the world. He has made major contributions to discussion panels on global water issues and Desalination for a number of science programmes including “Home Planet” and “The Material World” for BBC radio 4. He is also an Editor-in-Chief for the Desalination journal, on the advisory board of Lifeboat Foundation, a member of the project advisory board of the Middle East Desalination Centre, on the panel of referees for the Research Councils in the UK, Canada, Finland and Norway and for more than 40 international journals.

Professor Hilal has been the Director of the Centre for Clean Water Technologies in SChEME since 2003. This centre is internationally recognised for research into potable and waste-water treatment technologies, including desalination, advanced oxidation, membranes, and colloid and interface-based technologies.

He has been awarded the Doctor of Science Degree (DSc) from the University of Wales in 2005, in recognition of an outstanding research contribution in the field of Scanning Probe Microscopy and Membrane Science and Technology.

The world-leading reputation for research that Professor Hilal has earned in the fields of membrane technology and water treatment have now been formally recognized by the award of the prestigious Kuwait Prize of Applied Science for Water Resources Development for the year 2005. This has been awarded by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS). This prize is one of the highest scientific honours which are awarded in the Middle East for intellectual achievement. This is the first time that the award has been made to an academic in a UK university.

Professor Hilal is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Chemical Engineers, a member of the European Desalination Society and a member of the European Membrane Society.

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