Water & Environment
Numerical Modeling of Radionuclides Dispersion in the UAE Environment
Principal Investigator
Yacine Adad & Diana Francis
Department
Emirates Nuclear Technology Center
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The aim of this research project is to enhance the capabilities of the UAE to simulate radionuclides dispersion in marine, atmospheric and continental environments taking account for regional and local features. Since UAE has started the nuclear program by constructing four nuclear power plants, UAE is putting intensive efforts in increasing human capability on nuclear safety. This objective is in-line with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 as it serves the purpose of the development of a highly-skilled, science-oriented, workforce of UAE Nationals, and it lays the foundations for research & development in the field of nuclear energy safe usage, which not only supports the Plan’s goal of diversification of the Emirate’s economy but also minimizes the impact of this newly adopted sustainable energy source on the natural environment.

Integrating Satellite Passive Microwave and Optical Data to Enhance the Monitoring of Antarctic Sea Ice
Principal Investigator
Diana Francis
Department
ENGEOS Lab
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Sea ice is an important component of the Earth system being at the interface between Ocean, Atmosphere, and Ice Sheets. Sea ice has been going dramatic changes in recent decades in response to global warming. The primary goal of this project is to develop new gap-filling sea ice products through novel blending of satellite data from passive microwave and optical sensors. The developed products are to be used to assess the links between Antarctic sea ice variability and climate factors.

 

Integrating Schemes from UAEREP Projects into a Unified Multi-Component Atmospheric Model
Principal Investigator
Diana Francis
Department
ENGEOS Lab
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The goal of this project is twofold: first, to ensure that all the models developed by the UAEREP awardees are deployed locally for research, testing, and ultimate deployment in coordination with UAE NCM. A local modeling platform will be developed to include all models with their associated libraries and forcing data. Second, the different models developed as part of different projects under the UAEREP program will be integrated. This project will pursue the goal of developing a blended version of one model that integrates all the work of the different investigations and incorporates all updates.

Necessary adjustments will be done in the computational facilities at KU to accommodate the deployment of all models. Eventually, all models and the unified multi-component WRF model will be made accessible only to NCM experts along with the obtained results.

A Novel System for Air Quality Monitoring in the UAE Using Advanced Satellite and Modeling Techniques
Principal Investigator
Diana Francis
Department
ENGEOS Lab
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The goal of this project is to establish a comprehensive and robust system for the monitoring of air quality conditions in the UAE that is based on satellite imagery, numerical models, and in situ observations. These advanced tools will be in the heart of a reliable monitoring system of air quality across the country, which will aid in identifying sources, both regional and local, providing vital data that will assist in the enhancement of air quality strategies and contribute towards the UAE’s progress and leadership vision to place it among the world’s best countries for quality of life by 2030.

Towards Achieving a Fog-Ready Air Traffic Management System: Numerical Forecast and Satellite Detection
Principal Investigator
Diana Francis
Department
ENGEOS Lab
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The goal of this project is to develop an operational fog prediction and monitoring system to serve operational needs towards a fog-ready air traffic management system. The operational system will provide operation managers with accurate fog formation and dispersion forecasts around Abu Dhabi in addition to satellite-based tools for fog detection and tracking.

Low-cost Treatment Systems
Principal Investigator
Banu Yildiz
Department
Civil Infrastructure & Environmental Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Having access to safe drinking water is one of the essential requirements for sustaining human life. Unfortunately, more than one-sixth of the world population still lack access to safe drinking water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.5 million deaths occurred in children under five years of age due to consumption of unclean drinking water. The production of adequate and safe drinking water is extremely important to decrease the mortality and morbidity.

Currently, the available technologies offered in low income countries who suffer lack of clean drinking water rely on membrane filtration-based systems. However, these technologies require extensive initial cost, are difficult to operate by local people, and require intensive operational cost. Therefore, the development of low-cost treatment systems is of utmost importance. The aim of this study is to create stand-alone, low-cost desalination devices utilizing solar energy to meet WHO drinking water standards. This study will examine the feasibility of solar energy utilized tube collector for drinking water production to remove organics, turbidity, bacteria and inorganics from source water to meet WHO standards.

Development, Analysis, and Application of Novel Anti-Oxidant Food Packaging Films from Date Seeds
Principal Investigator
Vikas Mittal
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The date palm (phoenix dactylifera) is the major fruit tree in the United Arab Emirates, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the nation. Date fruits are marketed worldwide as a high-value fruit crop. However, date seeds of these fruits are discarded as waste and have not generally received much attention due to lack of popularity and commercial application.

The proposed work aims at the development of novel anti-oxidant films from date seeds that could be used as food wrap for processed and packaged food items such as vegetables, meat, and other “ready-to-eat” food items. The films will be developed from the date seed mucilage using glycerol or gelatin (biomaterials) as the plasticizer. The obtained films would be assessed for their preservative properties such as density, water vapor permeability, color, oxygen permeability, total phenolic content, and anti-oxidant activity. The mechanical and thermal characteristics of the synthesized films would also be studied in detail. The influence of the plasticizer concentration on the resulting films would be analyzed critically to identify its optimum value for the enhanced preservative properties for the resulting films. The presence of large quantities of fiber and substantial amount of tannins, resistant starch, anabolic agents, as well as selenium in date seeds assures that the bio-derived anti-oxidant films of the date seeds would also be edible, enhancing the nutritive value of the preserved food. Also, benchmarking the performance of synthesized anti-oxidant films with the commercial and other lab ready films for food packaging would be carried out. Thus, the anti-oxidant films derived from the date seeds would be a promising and potential substitute for the commercial food wraps/papers.

Through Light-optimized Agrophotovoltaic Systems for Sustainable Dry-land Agriculture
Principal Investigator
Annalisa Molini
Department
Civil Infrastructure & Environmental Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The co-location of photovoltaic and crop production—often referred to as Agrophotovoltaic (APV)—is expected to possess a large potential for marginal land reclamation and the enhancement of solar energy production efficiency in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world. APVs have, in fact, the capability of modifying the surface energy budget by enhancing latent heat fluxes (and evaporative cooling) and reducing sensible heat fluxes (and the consequent heating of land and atmosphere), with predicted beneficial effects on PV performance and crop productivity.

However, the actual magnitude of these effects has not been yet quantified in hyperarid climates like the one characterizing the UAE, where extremely harsh environmental conditions could lead to counter-intuitive results in terms of APV potential for evaporative cooling and crop heat stress mitigation. In particular, since PV shadowing is not a continuous process—varying with the time of the day—and can only partially alleviate the effects of heat- and water-stress the actual potential of classic APV systems for evaporative cooling efficiency in hot hyperarid climates remains mainly uncertain, as well as their actual capability for marginal dry land reclamation and remediation.

This project introduces ‘Through light’-Optimized APV systems (TLo-APVs) as a solution to overcome the limitations of intermittent shadowing and traditional PV systems for an efficient implementation of Agrivoltaic in hot-desert regions. TLo-APVs rely on the recently proposed technology of tracking-integrated CPVs, which are able to concentrate direct light while letting through to the diffuse component of light. Where classic PV shadowing cannot mitigate heat-stress all day around, tracking-integrated CPVs are transparent to diffuse light, allowing for a continuous modulation of the
thermal regime below the photovoltaic system. At the same time, diffuse light is able to sustain photosynthesis to attain a higher overall crop productivity—and higher rates of evapotranspiration—when compared with the ones of intermittently screened crops.

Our project hence aims to quantify the TLo- APVs performance and applicability in hot deserts through an intensive field measurement campaign, and the implementation of standard performance statistical measures and ad-hoc models of surface energy closure, plant growth, and transparent PV efficiency under the UAE climatic and environmental forcing. Insolight is a Swiss start-up company, manufacturing translucent, tracking-integrated CPV modules, has expressed interest in supporting the project by providing the needed modules for the field experimental test.

Observing the Sky Continuously at Very-high-energy Gamma Rays with the Alto/Hiscore Experiment
Principal Investigator
Satyendra Thoudam
Department
Physics
Focus Area
Water & Environment

In order to better understand the Universe, it is necessary to observe the sky at different wavelengths of photons and also using other cosmic messengers such as gravitational waves and neutrinos. This has been demonstrated clearly in recent years with the first detection of gravitational wave signals from black hole and neutron star systems, and with the first measurement of astrophysical neutrinos using sophisticated instruments. What we learn from the combined observations at different wavelengths and various messengers surpasses by far the science that can be done with a single experiment. Neutrino and gravitational waves observatories are either operating or under construction both in the Southern and Northern hemispheres. The photon wavelengths are currently covered by several ground-based telescopes and satellite missions in operation. But, there is a missing piece in the multi-messenger puzzle: the community lacks a wide field-of-view gamma-ray observatory in the Southern hemisphere that is capable of observing gamma-rays continuously at energies above 100 GeV (Giga-electronvolt: 109 eV).

The purpose of this application is to set up a collaboration between scientists from Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Linnaeus University (Sweden), Aix-Marseille University and the APC/CNRS laboratory (France), the University of Hamburg (Germany), INAF Brera (Italy), and Institute of Cosmic Sciences of the University of Barcelona (Spain) to explore novel detector techniques for the detection of very-high-energy gamma-rays in the energy range from 100 GeV to 100 TeV (Tera-electronvolt: 1012 eV). The idea is to couple the particle detection technique based on water Cherenkov detectors and scintillators used in the ALTO experiment that is currently under development at Linnaeus University in Sweden and the non-imaging Cherenkov technique used in the HiSCORE experiment that is presently under installation in the Tunka valley in Siberia.

The final goal is to install a hybrid detector array based on the two detection techniques consisting of around a thousand detector units for very-high-energy gamma-ray astronomy in the Southern Hemisphere. The proposed project aligns in several respects with the UAE National Space Strategy 2030. The knowledge and expertise gained from this project such as knowledge about gamma-rays/cosmic-rays, Monte-Carlo simulation skills for particle interaction in the Earth’s atmosphere/detector, handling big data and large computer codes, expertise using advanced particle physics software tools such as GEANT4, CORSIKA, and ROOT can be benefited to various projects related to aerospace, space science, artificial intelligence, and data science. At the national level, future collaboration with researchers from other universities in UAE and space-science related projects like the HOPE project (UAE Space Agency) are highly expected.

Fixed-bed Reactor for Water Microbial Disinfection via Supported Metal Over Kaolin and Metal Oxide Nanoparticles Composites
Principal Investigator
Hassan Arafat
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Environmental impact of conventional disinfection techniques (such as chlorination) cannot be over-emphasized. The current technologies are in need for novel materials with limited or no toxicity to the environment and yielding to high disinfection efficiency, as well as design of high-performance reactors to deploy these materials.

The aim of the project is to design a pilot scale fixed-bed reactor where supported silver nanoparticles on kaolin or ZnO-based glass as efficient and sustainable antimicrobial material for disinfection unit operation in wastewater treatment plants. The activities will be run in two phases—scalable production of environmentally friendly biocidal materials and design of a pilot scale fixed bed reactor to test these materials in a condition that mimics real-life applications. These materials to be synthesized and tested are characterized by: a) low cost, b) high efficiency towards recalcitrant micro-organisms; c) low potential to develop antimicrobial resistance; and d) long-term stability.

Material characterization will follow after synthesis, then the materials will be tested for their disinfectant capabilities in a pilot scale fixed bed reactor. The experimental results to be obtained will be validated using appropriate computational transport and kinetic modelling. The performance of the pilot system will be benchmarked with conventional techniques to evaluate its efficiency and large-scale deployment. This project is of great importance to the UAE, because it will bolster its position as a proponent of sustainable development goals (SDGs), especially the 6th SDG, and sustain its mission and vision to build and accomplish sustainable growth and economy.

Photothermal Heavy Metals Removal from Water
Principal Investigator
Faisal Al Marzooqi
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

In this project, we develop Photothermal Heavy Metal Removal Devices aiming at bringing unmatched scientific understandings and “know-how” toward the achievement of a reliable industrial wastewater treatment technology that offers; high efficiency, large scalable capacity, and the lowest energy consumption. In addition to being powered by an abundant renewable source of energy, the sun. Additionally, the inherent use of the novel solar absorbing membranes developed in Masdar Institute laboratories enables near 100% device efficiency. The current demonstrated membrane solar absorbance efficiency in our laboratories is 97%, outperforming the state-of-the-art solar energy harvesting technologies (solar cells) that are capped by the Shockley–Queisser ∼ 33% efficiency limit for a single junction.

The research team consists of three professors who demonstrate an in-depth understanding of membrane science and solar energy integration. They will work together with a team of one PhD student and one research associate over a period of 36 months to develop the membranes mentioned above and integrate them in a single device. The work proceeds with fabrication, system testing, and demonstration, concluding with scalability and market feasibility.

Till date, the industrial wastewater treatment technologies that have been proposed in the market did not tap on the usage of solar energy. In this project, we develop solar absorbing membranes that can act as a near black-body object and demonstrate an absorbance of 97%, while at the same time treating wastewater through the pervaporation process. These membranes separate heavy metal ions from wastewater using sunlight only, through a process driven by vapour pressure differences and powered by solar and a nanoscopic phenomenon called capillary pumping. Such a device not only outperforms the existing concepts through integrating solar energy absorbance and wastewater treatment in a single step, but also it raises the thermodynamic energy efficiency limits via a blackbody nanoporous capillary pumping membrane.

The project spans over three years with five interlinked work packages. Fabrication will use state-of-the-art electrospinning technology, composite layering integration, and phase inversion/casting to achieve the most robust and reproducible membranes relying on high caliber analytical assessments that the PI’s laboratory offers. We intend to have a more significant impact on the water-energy nexus across the globe.

Innovative Hybrid Treatment Systems Toward Sustainable Treatment of Oil and Gas Produced Water: Full Design with Feasibility Study
Principal Investigator
Emad Alhseinat
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Energy security, water scarcity, and environmental sustainability are the most pressing global challenges facing mankind in the 21st century. In fact, the availability of freshwater resources is crucial to those countries that look for sustainable economic development, particularly in aired regions. In the UAE, water desalination facilities provide about 80% of water consumed in the country. Indeed, massive efforts should be invested in research for finding new water treatment and desalination technology and to decrease the overall cost of the available technologies.

This project will contribute directly to the efforts of achieving one of the goals of the Abu Dhabi 2030 plan as it targets the issues related to water scarcity and lack of water resources and reducing energy consumption in the UAE by providing full water management guidelines toward the utilization of oil- and gas-produced water. Oil- and gas-produced water is water trapped in underground formations that is brought to the surface along with oil or gas in extraction operations. The management of produced water is a propriety for the UAE and the oil and gas industry. Indeed, the amount of produced water makes it the largest waste stream by volume associated with the oil and gas industry and makes the disposal of it a grave problem and burdens the operations of oil and gas industry.

This project will open the way to benefiting from the huge amount of waste produced water during the production of oil and gas, through providing: 1) a new innovative way of harvesting energy from the huge salinity gradient of the oil and gas produced water; 2) full sustainable treatment plan based on utilizing the harvested energy to power the required treatment processes; and 3) full feasibility study addressing the cost and environmental impact issues related to current procedure of disposing the oil and gas produced water.

Water Desalination in the UAE Using Low Energy Ro Process
Principal Investigator
Hassan Arafat
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The main objective of the Masdar Company’s Renewable Energy Desalination Program in Abu Dhabi is to confirm the viability of large-scale production of desalinated water from a plant fully powered by renewable energy and to demonstrate the potential of using promising innovative desalination technologies to reduce the energy footprint of desalination in the UAE.

The Korea Environment Industry & Technology Institute (KEITI), through its Industrial Facilities & Infrastructure Research Program, is interested in collaborating with the UAE to demonstrate Korean technology in this field (desalination). Under this initiative, this research project was initiated between Korea University and Masdar Institute (now part of Khalifa University). The Membrane and Sustainable Desalination Research Group (MSDR), led by Prof. Hassan Arafat of Khalifa University, will be executing this research project from the Masdar Institute side. The collaborative research program has been identified to address the following issues: i) to evaluate the performance of the desalination pilot plant that will be built by a consortium of Korean companies in Abu Dhabi; ii) to support the research at Korea University, in relation to the operation of the above-mentioned pilot plant; and finally, iii) to develop, test, and demonstrate novel pretreatment technologies with high energy efficiency.

Sustainable Energy Management and Digital Data Center SEM & DDC
Principal Investigator
Hosni Ghedira
Department
Civil Infrastructure & Environmental Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

An ensemble Renewable Energy Management System (REMS) tool was developed for KA CARE (Saudi Arabia) to prepare for the increasing share of renewable energy Sources in the generation mix of the Kingdom. It will facilitate reliable and efficient dispatching of renewable energy systems that will result in reducing the cost of generation and optimized management of the required spinning reserve. The developed REMS tool includes precise renewable power prediction schemes for solar plants (both PV and CSP), load forecasting tool, confident prediction interval, control strategies for scheduling renewable power generation with minimum utilization of Battery Energy Storage System (BESS).

Numerical Modeling of Radionuclides Dispersion in the UAE Environment
Principal Investigator
Dr. Yacine Addad
Department
Nuclear Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The aim of the research program is to enhance the capabilities of the UAE to simulate radionuclides dispersion in marine, atmospheric, and continental environments taking place for regional and local features. Since the UAE has started a nuclear program by constructing four nuclear power plants, the country is putting intensive efforts in increasing human capability on nuclear safety. This objective is in-line with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, as it serves the purpose of the development of a highly-skilled, science-oriented, workforce of UAE Nationals, and it lays the foundations for research & development in the field of nuclear energy safe usage, which not only supports the Plan’s goal of diversification of the Emirate’s economy, but also minimizes the impact of this newly adopted sustainable energy source on the natural environment.

Predicting Subsurface Soil Properties from Satellite Data in Abu Dhabi
Principal Investigator
Tadahiro Kishida
Department
Civil Infrastructure & Environmental Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The UAE plans to launch multiple satellites in the near future for space exploration. The satellite data are expected to bring significant benefits to many industries including civil and infrastructure engineering. Currently, digital elevation models (DEM) and satellite images have been used to obtain geologic and soil information for construction sites when soil boring data are limited. This trend will be further facilitated when the satellite data become available from different agencies. However, the data volume from satellites are very large, and the user needs to process these data automatically in order to be able to extract reliable results.

The aim of this study is to develop data processing technology to characterize the geologic and geotechnical site conditions in Abu Dhabi by using available DEMs and satellite images. These data are used in combination with site exploration data in Abu Dhabi (i.e., 600+ borings and several laboratory and in situ tests) available to the authors from ongoing collaboration with the spatial division of the Municipality of Abu Dhabi City. DEM data will be collected from publicly available data resources, such as United Sates Geology Survey Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (USGS SRTM). In addition, many satellite images are publically available (e.g., USGS Landsat).

The project will make use of these existing data in collaboration with Japanese researchers from Hiroshima University, and analyze and treat them to be used for geotechnical and geological applications. These data are combined with the soil exploration data in Abu Dhabi, to develop prediction models of subsurface soil properties from satellite data. Data analysis uses machine-learning techniques under the open platform of Python and R to develop and determine the best prediction models of subsurface soil properties. This approach will be useful in the city of Abu Dhabi, which is under expansion, in particular the areas where the soil exploration data are limited. Moreover, the technology will be applicable to different locations where only the limited boring data are available but the construction of the infrastructure is required.

Comfort, Happiness, and Productivity of People in UAE Educational Buildings: Development and Application of a Novel Building Audit Tool
Principal Investigator
Elie Azar
Department
Industrial & Systems Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Indoor environmental conditions in buildings can have a significant impact on occupants’ comfort, well-being, happiness, and productivity. Currently, the vast majority of building-related research efforts are focused on energy-efficient designs and technologies, overlooking the important effects of building conditions on their users. Despite the growing interest in the latter, the current literature on the topic has important shortcomings including: (1) a lack of comprehensive study approaches covering multiple indoor environmental metrics and potential synergies between them (e.g., temperature, lighting, humidity, and noise levels); (2) limited studies conducted in actual building environments as opposed to experimental settings; (3) a limited consideration of occupant-centered performance metrics (e.g., happiness and productivity levels); and (4) a limited application of novel analysis methods (e.g., machine learning) to get deep insights out of the collected data.

A novel data collection and analytics building audit tool is proposed to evaluate the impact of various building environmental metrics on occupants’ comfort, happiness, and productivity. Data collection includes a variety of sources including sensors, surveys, and cognitive tests. Data analysis combines traditional statistical methods (e.g., correlation and regression models) with novel machine learning techniques (e.g., gradient boosting). The capabilities of the tool are illustrated through applications to multiple university campuses across Abu Dhabi, shedding light on the ideal environmental conditions that are needed to support learning. Recommendations are then made following a gap analysis of current local building standards and green rating programs (e.g., Estidama). The proposed work is relevant and timely given the recent investments of the UAE government in the education system, human capital development, sustainable buildings and infrastructure, and more recently, initiatives to promote the happiness of UAE citizens and residents.

Development of Novel Nano-mesh Graphene Membrane for Efficient Water Desalination
Principal Investigator
Shashikant Patole
Department
Physics
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Membrane-based technologies for water purification and desalination have been increasingly applied to address the global challenges of water scarcity and the pollution of aquatic environments. However, progress in water purification membranes has been constrained by the inherent limitations of conventional polymeric membrane materials.

Herein, we proposed a novel nano-mesh graphene membrane for water desalination. Sub nanometer pores in graphene provide passage to the water molecules and prohibit ion transport. Well-controlled, high-density sub-nanometer pores will be created in the highly crystalline graphene basal plane to form a nano-mesh graphene. This nano-mesh graphene will be transformed into a membrane using wet-filtration zipping technology. The membrane performance in water desalination will be evaluated by employing reverse osmosis (RO). Our approach to fabricate the nano-mesh graphene and its membrane using wet-filtration zipping technology can be concatenated with the current cellulose paper manufacturing technology thereby possessing a huge industrial potential.

It is expected that nano-mesh graphene membranes will drive water desalination to its maximum extent, resolving the global and regional water crisis effectively. Furthermore, the research objectives allow revealing fundamental aspects of water desalination using novel nano-mesh graphene membranes and set a benchmark for the design and development of more efficient advanced membranes and facilities. Their successful implementation in large-scale industrial processes will promote a paradigm shift in water desalination of sea water, and stimulate future research in water treatment and desalination, dialysis, fuel cells, as well as emission conversion.

Wastewater Treatment Using Ionic Liquids
Principal Investigator
Enas Nashef
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The United Arab Emirates is one of the extremely highly stressed countries that draws heavily upon groundwater and desalinated sea water, and faces exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future. In recent years, the pollutants that are refractory to treat by conventional biological, physical, and chemical methods, together with the stricter restrictions imposed by new legislation have caused many researchers to look for alternative treatment processes. In addition, there is uncertainty regarding the formation of toxic byproducts following conventional chemical oxidation. Halogenated hydrocarbons (HHCs), which are priority chemicals, have been used extensively in a number of industrial processes. However, it was discovered that many of these HHCs are carcinogens and have serious negative impact on the eco system.

We hereby propose the use of hydrophobic ionic liquids (ILs) for the extraction of different types of halogenated hydrocarbons from industrial wastewater. Parameters that might affect the extraction will be investigated, e.g., temperature, chemical structure of IL, solvent/water ratio, etc. Experiments conducted at our labs showed excellent preliminary results for the extraction of HHCs from water using ILs. COnductor-like Screening Model for Realistic Solvents (COSMO-RS) will be used for predicting the solubility of HHCs ILs.

This work is of paramount importance to Abu Dhabi, and specifically to the UAE in general. It is well known that the UAE natural water resources are limited. Any improvement in the treatment of waste water technology will affect all aspects of life in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf.

Exploring High-performance Redox and Faradaic Active Electrode Materials in Capacitive Deionization
Principal Investigator
Linda Zou
Department
Civil Infrastructure & Environmental Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Capacitive deionization (CDI) has been used to describe electrosorption with carbon electrodes by the mechanism of the electrical double layer (EDL) formation. Many studies have been conducted regarding new carbon materials that are also based on the same EDL mechanism to remove salt ions. It is considered mostly as physical sorption that occurs on the surface of the electrode, such electrodes that have limited adsorption capacity and has not yet achieved the breakthrough in capacitive performance for the commercial application. However, other mechanisms, such as pseudocapacitive behavior that result from either superficial or multi-electron transfer Faradaic reactions with fast electrosorption/desorption properties, have merged as a new front for investigation of better electrode materials. these classes of materials can offer greater capacity than EDL and with fast electrosorption/desorption properties as well.

Until now, this type of behavior can only occur in thin film electrodes with nanometer thickness and are not yet suitable for practical application. In this proposal, we address this pertinent issue by designing and synthesis the architectures that provide enhanced access of the metal centers not only by conductive graphene sheets that are in close contacting with the mixed spinel oxides, but also by the many openings offered via nanopores that are randomly distributed across the material structure. A two-step strategy is proposed: 1) synthesize the mixed spinel oxides in uniform nano-sized particles; and 2) use a 3D nanoporous graphene framework as the conductive scaffold for the electrochemically active materials. This morphology provides the anticipated synergistic effect between the pseudocapacitive electrosorption by mixed spinel metal oxides and the EDL by graphene. These architectures offer great potential that can remove the limitation of redox charge transfer of the hybrid electrodes, and result in high performance in removal of ions from water solution.

Integrating Schemes from UAEREP Projects into a Unified Multi-component Atmospheric Model
Principal Investigator
Marouane Temimi
Department
Civil Infrastructure & Environmental Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The UAE Rain Enhancement Program (UAEREP) is a very important international program that the National Center of Meteorology (NCM) is leading in the UAE. Several research teams were funded to conducted studies on rain enhancement in arid and semi-arid regions. The proposed studies include the development of numerical models that could significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of rainfall enhancement activities.

It is essential to ensure that the research versions of the developed models under the UAEREP program are being further developed, tested, and ultimately deployed locally. Khalifa University is a leading research university and, in partnership with experts from the National Center of Meteorology, can provide the knowhow and the research facilities to achieve this objective and develop strong local capacity in atmospheric modeling.

Microphysics of Convective Clouds and the Effects of Hygroscopic Seeding: Synthesis of Aircraft Measurements, Polarimetric Radar Observations, and Numerical Modeling
Principal Investigator
Marouane Temimi
Department
Civil Infrastructure & Environmental Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The project is part of the UAE Rain Enhancement Program (UAE REP) that is funded by the UAE National Center of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS). The overall scientific objective of the project is to determine if hygroscopic seeding in the updrafts at the base of certain cumulus clouds can increase the drop size distribution sufficiently to initiate a natural secondary ice production process in the supercooled region of the updraft. The methodology includes three main tasks, namely, (i) UAE polarimetric radar data analysis, (ii) experimental flight observations, and (iii) numerical modeling.

Thin and Highly Selective Molecular Sieving Membranes for Cost-effective Hydrogen Purification
Principal Investigator
Maryam Tariq Khaleel
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment
Environmentally Friendly Refrigeration and Radiative Cooling
Principal Investigator
Tiejun Zhang
Department
Mechanical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment
Warm Mix Rubberized Asphalt Concrete: The Green Solution for UAE Road Infrastructure
Principal Investigator
Athanasios Skarpas
Department
Civil Infrastructure & Environmental Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment
Water Treatment Using Novel Green Solvents
Principal Investigator
Enas M. Nashef
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment
Green Chemistry 2.0: Integrated Biochemical and Mechanochemical Methods for the Environmental Remediation and Recycling of Organic Waste Pollutants
Principal Investigator
Sharmarke Mohamed
Department
Chemistry
Focus Area
Water & Environment
Center for Membranes and Advanced Water Technology (CMAT)
Principal Investigator
Hassan Arafat
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

To face its growing water scarcity challenges, there is a dire need for the UAE to develop and implement long-term, sustainable, well-coordinated, and integrated home-grown technical capacity in water and membrane technologies that are resilient, energy-efficient, environment-friendly and cost effective. The core mission of this center, named Center for Membranes & Advanced Water Technology (CMAT), is to support that.

CMAT research theme are:

    1. Advanced water technologies and hybrid systems
    2. Nanomaterials and membranes
    3. Energy efficiency and sustainability of water processes
    4. Technology transfer and capacity building in desalination and water technology
Novel Advanced 3-stage Integrated Membrane Filtration Column for Wastewater Treatment and Water Reuse
Principal Investigator
Shadi Hasan
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

In September 2017, the UAE’s Ministry of Energy and Industry launched the Water Security Strategy 2036. The strategy aims to guarantee Emiratis with sustainable access to water under both emergency and normal situations to comply with the World Health Organization standards and the country’s vision to realize a prosperous and sustainable future. Recently, membrane technology has been attracting several researchers and industries; more specifically towards developing novel membranes for better water quality and less energy consumption. The integration of membrane technology with nanotechnology has prompted revolutionary advances in the treatment of wastewaters.

In this project, we aim to design, develop, and operate a novel and advanced 3-stage integrated membrane filtration column and investigate its performance in terms of water quality, membrane fouling, and energy consumption.

Ferrite MFe2O4 Nanoparticles in Advanced Oxidation Processes for Water Treatment
Principal Investigator
Mohammad Abu Haija
Department
Chemistry
Focus Area
Water & Environment

The current project tackles the deficiency of water resources in the UAE caused by the growth of industry and population. The UAE currently reuses 5% of treated wastewater while it uses 60% groundwater and 35% desalinated water. Due to the high demand, the overall groundwater level has continuously declined in the UAE. To reduce the demand for freshwater, the UAE plans to recycle and reuse 100% of its wastewater by 2030. Among various wastewater treatment methods, the advanced oxidation process (AOP) shows a high potential for the degradation of organic pollutants in waters via the catalytic generation of reactive hydroxyl radicals. Ferrites are very promising catalysts for AOP because of their low cost, ease of recovery, efficient recyclability, and reuse. The present work aims at investigating the superior photocatalytic performance of some pure and mixed ferrite nanoparticles in the degradation of typical organic pollutants discharged in wastewater from industrial processes.

Cross-flow Induced Vibrations of Heat Exchanger Tubes for Nuclear Power Plant
Principal Investigator
Md. Didarul Islam
Department
Mechanical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Flow-induced vibration (FIV), due to its large amplitude and frequent occurrence, is a serious problem associated with the cooling/heat-exchanger systems in nuclear plants. It diminishes coolant capacity and causes fatigue damage and failure, which can lead to catastrophic nuclear meltdown. To understand the behavior of this complex interactive vibration system and its effect on thermal performance, this study investigates experimentally and numerically across flow heat transfer of two different sized tandem circulars as a tractable representative model of cross flow heat exchanger in the presence of FIV. Comprehensive experiments, including FIV on downstream cylinder measured, vortex dynamics visualized and associated heat transfer measured and analyzed, buttressed with detailed numerical simulations are employed to obtain deeper understanding of these fully-coupled phenomena, to develop effective FIV countermeasures and hence increase the reliability of the nuclear-reactor cooling system. This will increase the public confidence on nuclear power plant safety in the UAE.

Carbon Nanotubes for Water Transport
Principal Investigator
Jamal Hassan
Department
Physics
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Growing global demand for clean water requires the development of materials to address the challenge of water scarcity. Among other materials, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have attracted much attention in this connection and to optimize them in such applications, information on the molecular level regarding the mechanism of the interactions between CNT walls and water molecules are essential.  It is well known that these interactions are not fully understood. Theoretical studies showed that the diffusion of water molecules is size dependent, nevertheless, experimental evidence is still lacking. The complexity arises due to several factors: hydrophobic interaction between water molecules and carbon atoms and the expected change of the water hydrogen bond network upon confinement. Recently, we reported the first 2D NMR diffusion-relaxation experiment on water-CNT systems. In this project, we aim to expand such NMR measurements and to include Atomic Force Microscopy and determine the CNT sizes for optimum water diffusion.

Development of a Novel Enzyme-based Prototype for Large Scale Water Treatment
Principal Investigator
Syed Salman Ashraf
Department
Chemistry
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Various types of organic pollutants, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and personal care products are increasingly being detected in our water systems. These “emerging pollutants” arise from domestic as well as industrial discharge, but unfortunately, most of them are not removed during the present-day wastewater treatment plants. A large number of studies, including many from our lab, have demonstrated the applicability of enzymes to degrade different classes of organic pollutants. However, there are only a few published examples of real-life water samples being treated with enzymes. Furthermore, these enzyme-based techniques have not yet been incorporated into large-scale water treatment systems. The focus of the project is to develop immobilized enzyme-based systems using two different immobilizing supports (chitosan-based renewable/sustainable support), as well as novel metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), and use them to degrade a diverse set of emerging pollutants. Finally, a 100-liter bioreactor using immobilized enzyme-based technology would be developed and tested.

Selective Surface Chemistry Enhancement of Microfluidic Devices Using Zeolites and MOFs
Principal Investigator
Nahla Alamoodi
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

Localized modification of the surface chemistry of microchannels broadens the spectrum of processes conducted at a microscopic level and permits the integration of several processes into a single continuous one. Due to the different types of materials used in fabrication microchannels and in modifying the surface chemistry, the selective patterning of a microchannel becomes challenging due to the need of patterning techniques compatible with the materials used for fabrication and modification and due to the required precision of the patterns. Herein, we propose the development of novel selective patterning techniques for two classes of substrates bonded to polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microchannels, namely polymer-and silicon-based substrates, with surface chemistry tunable nanoporous materials. The techniques are based on surface functionalization and on ex- and in-situ crystal growth of both functionally tuned porous materials. The performance of the selectively patterned devices will be verified for liquid-liquid phase separation and enhanced in-droplet mixing in microfluidic devices. 

Solar Absorbing Membranes for Water Desalination
Principal Investigator
Faisal AlMarzooqi
Department
Chemical Engineering
Focus Area
Water & Environment

In this project, we develop a ‘Direct Solar Desalination’ device aiming to bring unmatched scientific understandings and “know-how” toward the achievement of a reliable desalination technology that offers high-efficiency, large scalable capacity, and the lowest energy consumption in addition to being powered by an abundant renewable source of energy, the sun. The work proceeds with fabrication, system testing, and demonstration, concluding with scalability and market feasibility. Till date, the solar desalination technologies that have been proposed in the market or within the global desalination research community taps on the integration of solar energy harvesting devices with desalination devices. In this project, we develop solar absorbing membranes that can act as a near black-body object and demonstrate an absorbance of 97%, while at the same time desalinating seawater through a pre-evaporation process. Such a device not only outperforms the existing ideas in its integration of solar energy absorbance and desalination in a single layer, rather additionally raises the thermodynamic energy efficiency limits via the process of coupling solar absorbance with enhanced evaporation via the natural capillary pumping process in nano-pores.