U of O researchers are working to improve membrane distillation techniques to make drinking water more accessible

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We looked at the pore wetting phenomenon and how O University PhD candidate Hooman Chamani plans to alleviate it.

University of Ottawa doctoral candidate Hooman Chamani, alongside Professors Christopher Lan and Takeshi Matsuura from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, recently published their work Pore ​​wetting in membrane distillation: a comprehensive review. Their research aims to commercialize membrane distillation (DM) and to work for access to drinking water for all. MD is a thermal process where only vapor molecules are transferred through a hydrophobic (water repellent) microporous membrane

In the article, Chamani illustrates that current membrane desalination technology, reverse osmosis, is unable to desalinate highly saline (or salty, in layman’s terms) brines due to the very high osmotic pressure required. The only means of treating hypersaline water are desalination technologies by thermal evaporation, the use of which is extremely expensive.

Membrane distillation, on the other hand, is an alternative to reverse osmosis, which Chamani says has drawn attention for the desalination of very salty brines.

In an interview, Chamani explained that “although the membrane desalination (DM) process offers a number of potential advantages, including low operating hydraulic pressure, nearly 99.9% rejection of non-volatile solutes, low sensitivity to salt concentration, low footprint as well as independent performance of high osmotic pressure, several obstacles prevent full commercialization of MD. One of the biggest obstacles is the wetting of the pores.

Chamani adds that “the wetting of the pores occurs when the liquid penetrates the membranes instead of the vapor, which is undesirable”.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, half of the world’s population will live in areas of water stress by 2030. – there is great potential to obtain fresh water from salt water in eliminating its salts and minerals via the desalination process. Desalination can help achieve the sixth United Nations goal on the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Chamani’s research aimed to tackle this previously poorly understood pore wetting phenomenon to better understand it and, therefore, alleviate pore wetting of MD and help MD become commercialized.

Chamani was born and raised in Khorasan, a semi-arid region in eastern Iran with severe water problems. “I was introduced to the concept of water and wastewater treatment from a young age, and seeing the irrigation problems of farmers in my town pushed me to work in this field”

He obtained his MASc and BASc in Chemical Engineering with distinction from Sharif University of Technology and Ferdowsi University in Mashhad, respectively.

“I was involved in the field of environmental engineering during my BASc project on ‘the preparation and filtration of wastewater membranes’ and later, the MASc thesis on’ the synthesis of nanoadsorbents and the adsorption of dyes from the wastewater, ”said Chamani.

To continue his research as a doctoral student, he joined the joint research group of Professors Christopher Lan and Takeshi Matsuura at the University of Ottawa, where they mainly focused on water desalination. of sea and brine.

In order to work to end the water scarcity, says Chamani. “I hope to one day live in a world where no one has to suffer from water scarcity.

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