Applied Research

Fundamental insights into spacer biofouling in MD and FO:

Reclamation of highly contaminated water has prompted the need for novel membrane-based technologies with low biofouling propensity such as forward osmosis (FO) and membrane distillation (MD). The role of spacers in membrane modules is maintaining a  flow path between adjacent membranes while enhancing transport by increased turbulence. The changes in flow induced by spacers also alter the process of biofilm development, which is a known hurdle of wastewater reclamation with membrane-based technologies, as it critically impacts heat and solute transport.

The role of planktonic hydrogels and protobiofilms in membrane biofouling

Biofouling is a significant hurdle in different membrane processes. Planktonic hydrogels such as transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) as well as floating bioaggregates such as protobiofilms facilitate biofouling formation. Yet, different aspects in their contribution to membrane fouling are currently vague.

Bidirectional interactions between the desalination industry and the aquatic environment

Large scale desalination facilities such as seawater reverse osmosis have tight bidirectional interaction with the aquatic environment. These interactions impose technical challenges on desalination operators as they draw seawater with changing characteristics, while effecting the aquatic environment by altering the ambient: (i) salinity, (ii) temperatures and (iii) nutrient loads. The growing need of desalinated water from one end and the clear importance of the coastal environment on the other hand highlight the importance of understanding this sensitive nexus between the desalination industry and the aquatic environment.

Fundamental Research

Spontaneous formation of aquatic hydrogels

Marine hydrogels are three dimensional, supramolecular networks embedded in an aqueous solvent (seawater). Most hydrogels form abiotically, and exist as a size continuum, ranging from nano-monosaccharides to micro-polysaccharides. In the last decade, significant headway was made in hydrogel science. However, the pathways as well as gelation dynamics are currently unclear.

Force interactions between bacteriophages and their bacterial host

Viruses are ubiquitous nano-parasites (20-300 nm) that exist as extracellular entities in between intracellular reproduction cycles. The general viral structure is composed of a nucleocapsid, a protein shell encapsulating a nucleic-acid genome. However, some viruses (e.g. bacteriophage) often possess a complex architecture. In this project, we focus on the physicochemical interactions between the bacteriophage and its bacterial host using a force spectroscopy approach complemented with microscopy and biochemistry assays. This research will provide a unique state of the art platform to shed new light on the molecular forces between viruses and bacteria.