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Publications & Patents
Publications & Patents

Membrane synthesis and characterization

With development of novel membranes being a key focus of CMAT, the center is well-equipped with various tools and equipment for the fabrication of polymeric and mixed-matrix membranes, in both flat sheet and hollow fiber geometries, as well as coating techniques to modify membrane surface chemistry and morphology for increased flux and reduced fouling. Various tools such as casting knifes for phase inversion as well as electro-spinning are available for fabrication of membranes for a wide variety of applications, ranging from reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration to membrane distillation and forward osmosis. These fabrication tools are well-supported by essential equipment such as furnaces, sonicators and dryers etc.

The characterization of the fabricated membranes is vital for the accurate determination of membrane properties. For that reason, CMAT houses a wide-range of membrane characterization tools. Some of the important membrane parameters that can be characterized at CMAT include pore size distribution, surface energy, surface roughness and mechanical and thermal stability. This can help in identifying and optimizing membrane fabrication parameters to develop novel membranes with the most suitable characteristics.


Some of the noteworthy equipment under this facility are:

  • Electrospinning Setup (MECC Corporation, Japan): Nanofibers production for desalination, water treatment, catalysis and energy devices.
  • Spin Coater Chemate KW-4A Equipped with Hot Plate (Chemat Technologies, USA): Spin coater with 9.5” stainless steel coating bowl designed for substrates up to 6 in. to 8 in. in diameter. Dual speed/timer control, up to 8,000 rpm.
  • Automatic Film Applicator – Elcometer 4340 (Elcometer, USA): The membrane support is held securely in place on the machine and the machine spreads the polymer solution in a consistent and reproducible membrane across the surface.
  • Capillary Flow Porometry (Porous Materials Inc. USA): Fully automated through-pore analysis including bubble point, pore size distribution, mean flow pore size, and liquid, gas, Frazier, Gurley, and Rayl permeability.
  • Easy DROP Contact Angle Analyzer (KRÜSS GmbH, Germany): Contact angle measurements to determine hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity of the membranes.
  • Differential Scanning Calorimeter – Perkin Elmer DSC 4000 (Perkin Elmer, USA): Measurement of heats of fusion and crystallization, crystallinity and glass transition temperature of polymers as well as study of oxidation and other chemical reactions.
  • Thermal Gravimetric Analyzer – Perkin Elmer TGA 4000 (Perkin Elmer, USA): Evaluation of thermal stability of materials, study of combustion and oxidation reactions as well as thermogravimetric kinetics.
Membrane distillation (MD) process testing

One of the novel, upcoming desalination technologies that combines aspects of both thermal and membrane desalination is membrane distillation (MD). CMAT contains one of the most extensive spectrum of setups to test novel membranes in MD in different configurations, as well as to design and

optimize various process operational parameters that can further develop this emerging technology, such as temperature, flow-rate, cleaning cycles, anti-scalant dosage etc. Novel membranes designed for MD can be characterized by custom-built tools to measure the liquid entry pressure (LEP) as well as bubble point of the membrane. Multiple configurations of MD such as direct contact MD (DCMD) and air-gap MD (AGMD) are available at CMAT, as well as a state-of-the-art AGMD-in-series which closely replicates industrial configuration for this process. These can be used for wide ranging applications such as seawater desalination, scaling mitigation tests and brine management studies. Moreover, CMAT houses 2 pilot scale MD test setups.

Pressure-driven (RO, UF, MF) process testing

The vast majority of commercially available membrane processes are pressure-driven, and CMAT features a range of tools necessary to test membranes for these processes. Pressure driven process can vary over a wide range of pressure, with 0.5-1 bar for microfiltration (MF), rising up to 60-65 bars for reverse osmosis (RO). Multiple configurations such as dead-end filtration and cross-flow filtration can be tested at CMAT in both high-pressure and low-pressure systems, depending on the process application. The equipment have been customized to mimic industrial settings as closely as possible, with membrane cleaning and backwashing capabilities built into the systems.

A wide range of applications require pressure-driven membrane processes, such as seawater desalination, wastewater treatment, food and protein separation, biofouling analysis etc. The ability and technical knowledge to operate the various tools and customize them based on the process is demonstrated at CMAT, with expertise in numerous process testing protocols for these applications.

Some of the noteworthy equipment under this facility are:

  • RO Testing Unit (Sterlitech Corporation, USA): The RO test unit allows the measurement of flux in flat sheet RO membranes of size 4×9 cm. All key process parameters are controllable: feed flow rate, temperature and pressure.
  • Ultrafiltration/Microfiltration setup (Convergence B.V, Netherlands): Test flux and fouling for ultrafiltration membranes and feed spacers, using bacteria, algae, proteins, heavy metals, etc.
  • Membrane fouling simulator (Convergence B.V, Netherlands): Carry out pressure drop studies for biofouling tests in crossflow filtration setup.
  • Dead-end Filtration Setup (Koch Membrane Systems, UK): Test membranes in dead-end configuration, including dense RO membranes, at pressures up to 60 bars.


Water sample analysis

The ability to test the quality of water samples and characterize its contents is indispensable to determining the efficacy of membranes and process testing. CMAT hosts an extensive range of equipment that can analyze water samples to isolate and characterize both organic and inorganic contaminants. State-of-the-art tools are used to identify components even in miniscule quantities, that can help design membranes that adhere to the strictest of regulations for water quality. The identification of these chemicals is based on rigorous sampling techniques and standard protocols that are shared throughout CMAT by the expertise of its members. In addition to its own dedicated equipment, CMAT also has access to a vast catalogue of analysis tools and expertise held at the core labs of Khalifa University.


Some of the noteworthy equipment under this facility are:

  • Gas Chromatograph with FID Detector – GC-2014 Plus (Shimadzu, Japan): Separation of volatile or semi-volatile organic compounds such as CO, CO2, CH4 detection.
  • Particle Size Analyzer Model LA-950 (Horiba, Japan): For measurement of particle size distribution of dry powders, suspensions or emulsions.
  • Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (Shimadzu, Japan): Determination of total organic carbon in water.
  • Elemental Analyzer (CHNS) – EuroEA-3000 series (Eurovector, Italy): Determination of total nitrogen, Total carbon and total hydrogen, total sulfur of solid, membranes and liquid samples.
  • Ion Chromatography System – Thermo ICS 3000 (Thermo Fisher Scientific, USA): Analysis of anions and cations in aqueous solutions.
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectrometer (Perkin Elmer, USA): Determination of chemical elements in water samples.
  • HPLC with Diode Array and Refractive Index Detector (Thermo Scientific, USA): Chromatographic analysis of biomolecules and amino acids.
  • Mercury Analyzer (Mercury Instruments, Germany): Determination of trace concentration of mercury in water.
Imaging facility

A host of imaging techniques are available at CMAT that can be utilized for membrane characterization as well as process analysis. Visualization of the membrane surface and cross-section at the macro-, micro- and nano- scale can provide essential information regarding the fabrication process and the surface modification carried out. These tools can be used to determine the presence of materials within the membrane polymer matrix, as well as demonstrate their interaction with the polymer in shaping the membrane characteristics such as pore size and tortuosity.

Imaging tools can also provide a great platform for analyzing membrane fouling. This can be either destructive analysis, such as with fluorescence microscopy for analyzing biofilms through tracking of bacteria and extra-cellular polymeric substances in the film through dyes. In-situ, non-invasive analysis is also possible through tools such as the optical coherence tomography (OCT), which can provide a real- time insight into the development of fouling patterns on the membrane surface.

Some of the noteworthy equipment under this facility are:

  • Tecnai TEM 200kV and Titan TEM 300kV (FEI, USA): The Titan enables sub-Angstrom, atomic scale discovery and exploration in both TEM and STEM modes over a wide range of materials and operating conditions.
  • Nova Nano SEM 30 Series (FEI, USA): Samples, including the most non-conducting or contaminating materials, can equally be characterized or analyzed in the Nova NanoSEM series, using its unique low vacuum capabilities.
  • Quanta 3D FIB SEM (FEI, USA): This is a “dual beam” scanning electron microscope (SEM) that is also equipped with a focused ion beam (FIB). This SEM functions permit microscopic observations of a specimen while the FIB functions allow cutting the sample.
  • Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) Imaging System (Thorlabs GmbH, Germany): Real time mentoring of fouling development on membrane surfaces.
Pilot testing facility

Pilot-scale units are available at CMAT for the testing of membrane processes and new water treatment schemes at a commercial and industrial scale. The pilot plants at CMAT have been commissioned, with operational expertise available within the center for the equipment. Pilots for RO, UF, ion-exchange and wastewater treatment are featured within the CMAT.


Some of the noteworthy equipment under this facility are:

  • RO Pilot plant (Axium, UK): With spiral wound configuration.
  • UF Pilot plant (Axium, UK): With spiral wound configuration.
  • Anaerobic Pilot plant (EIR: AnBS): Anaerobic wastewater treatment pilot plant.
  • Coagulation and Flocculation Pilot Plant (WPN60): Coagulation, flocculation and settling processes either individually or simultaneously.