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Renewable Energy Powered Membrane Technology

Schäfer (PI), Richards

projekt N045


Renewable Energy Powered Membrane Technology REMEM Demonstrator
The so-called Reverse Osmosis Solar Installation (ROSI) was originally developed by the Schäfer-Richards research team in Australia to be a mobile, autonomous, and robust water-supply system for rural areas. The design choices to meet these criteria were, amongst others, the:

  • direct coupling of renewable energy to pump (no batteries or inverters are required), hence increasing efficiency and robustness, reducing maintenance requirements, and storing water instead of energy;

  • high quality pretreatment – both for providing a dual barrier to microbiological contaminants as well as to protect the nanofiltration/reverse osmosis membrane from fouling;

  • low recovery to avoid concentrate disposal issues where possible, making use of the physically disinfected reject water for washing purposes.

The key objective has been to produce high quality water from brackish sources, with the ability to remove dissolved contaminants (salinity, organic matter, pesticides, fluoride, arsenic, etc.) to a desired water quality (e.g. World Health Organisation Drinking Water Guidelines) while simultaneously removing bacteria and viruses that are responsible for most water related deaths. This design will be followed for the new demonstrator system.


Schäfer (PI),
Dittmeyer, Hoffmann, Levkin, Turshatov, Hirtz, Schabel, Richards

Science and Technology of Nanosystems (STN) Programme Strategic Initiative


NanoMembrane overarching research aims achieved with 10 interdiscliplinary PhD projects;
Nanoscale engineering of novel membrane materials of superior performance: 

  • significantly enhanced water permeability

  • specific and effective removal of pollutants (e.g. salt, micropollutants)

  • low fouling properties (biological, organic, scaling)

  • controllable characteristics (e.g. switchable, regenerative, programmable, adaptable)

  • nano to macro approach (materials development through to manufacturing and system scale applications)

Cluster-composite nanofibre membranes for rapid, ultra-trace detection of waterborne Contaminants (CANDECT)

Pradeep (PI) & Schäfer with Fader Umwelttechnik and Inno Nano Research Pvt Ltd

BMBF IGSTC Call 2015


Dissolved water contaminants of inorganic (arsenic, chromate, fluoride, uranium, nitrate or strontium) and organic (pesticides, plasticisers, pharmaceuticals, alkylphenols, endocrine disrupters) origin play an important role in drinking water quality and health. Water guideline values are usually in the ppb region, which makes detection difficult. Monitoring of such contaminants is time consuming and expensive which poses a significant challenge especially for water supplies in rural areas and/or in developing countries, which present a vast, hugely unexplored and scientifically challenging market.

The development of suitable sensor technologies using advanced materials that can be integrated to hand-operated pumps or decentralised water supplies is the subject of this proposal. The materials will interact with pollutants by covalent, supramolecular or ionic interactions and the detection will subsequently take place by excitation and read-out of the colourimetric signal via commonly available devices such as i-phones.

Atomically precise clusters with specific interactions with inorganic and organic contaminants developed by IIT Madras for the detection of heavy metal ions in water at ultra trace levels will be incorporated in electrospun fibres and porous substrates. This technology will be developed further into a sensor device for arsenic in drinking water. Simultaneously the same technology will be expanded further to address specific challenges of chromate, fluoride, a select number of pesticides and alkylphenols for proof of concept.

New and emerging challenges and opportunities in wastewater reuse (NEREUS)

Despo Fatta-Kassinos (PI) et al. Schäfer (substitute MC Germany)

COST Action ES1403


Wastewater reuse is currently considered globally as the most critical element of sustainable water management. Water scarcity, foreseen to aggravate, pushes for maximum utilization of non-conventional water. Although reuse is accompanied by a number of benefits, several potential drawbacks still puzzle scientists. The applied treatments fail to completely remove microcontaminants, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and/or their genes (ARB&Gs). Knowledge on the actual effects of reuse with regard to these aspects is currently not consolidated. This Action will answer critical questions through a European multidisciplinary network, structured in interactive Working Groups (WGs), to achieve: a) identification of the microbiome and mobile antibiotic resistome in treated wastewater, b) assessment of the potential for uptake/transmission of microcontaminants and ARB&Gs in crops, c) determination of effect-based bioassays required for wastewater reuse, d) identification of efficient/economically viable technologies able to meet the current challenges and, e) development of a relevant risk assessment and policy framework. The Action, will establish criteria on technologies/assessment methods for wastewater treatment, and suggest new effluent quality criteria to overcome current barriers and safeguard the reuse practice. The Action will have a major impact on the enhancement of sustainable wastewater reuse in light of current challenges at technological, economical and societal level.

Establishment of Professorship Water Process Engineering

KIT with Schäfer (candidate)

Helmholtz Association Rekrutierungs-initiative, Round 1 (01/2012)

From 03/2014 (ongoing without end date)

I – Novel Membrane Materials

  • New polymers for water applications

  • Biomimetic membranes

  • Nano-composite membranes

II – Retention and Fouling mechanisms

  • Micropollutant removal

  • Solute-solute interactions in environmental matrices

  • Fouling identification and control

III – System Development & Applications

  • Renewable energy powered membrane technologies

  • Hybrid processes (e.g. adsorption, nanotechnology, advanced oxidation)

  • Decentralised Systems, water treatment, desalination, water reuse, rural water supplies