9.2 Mechanistic understanding of micropollutant removal in RO/NF systems for clean water production

Micropollutants (MPs) a major concern for water treatment and water quality. Ideally, existing membrane-based water treatment technologies, such as nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO), could be used to remove micropollutants without performance loss. However, micropollutants may severely affect water transport through RO/NF membranes, due to their charge, size, hydrophobicity, and high local concentration. A detailed understanding of the impact of these physico-chemical aspects of micropollutants on the processes occurring in RO/NF is essential for the development of more efficient removal strategies of micropollutants.

Research challenge
The challenge is to develop a better understanding of the transport of small micropollutants near and through RO/NF membranes. These small charged molecules don’t quite behave as simple ions such as Na+ or Cl-, because they also have a hydrophobic group. This makes it possible that near the membrane they attract one another and form small clusters. Their interaction with the membrane is different than for regular ions because they are larger and have a larger affinity with the membrane.

In the project we will study the transport of small micropollutant molecules through RO/NF membranes as function of membrane pore size, pressure and molecular properties. We build a theory to describe transport. We carry out model experiments (and use published data) to validate our model. We use spectroscopic methods to study the behavior of micropollutants at the membrane surface.

We are looking for a candidate with an MSc degree in the field of physics or chemical engineering, or a related field of study.

We are looking for a candidate, who
* is interested in doing scientific research, with a strong wish to figure out in detail how things work, both by experiment and theory;
* has an interest in theoretical modelling of the process at hand;
* is precise and dedicated to make sure experiments and calculations are as good as needed;
* is inventive in figuring out new ways to study a system by theory or experiments;
* can communicate his/her results in writing, presentations, and discussions;
* likes to write.

The research project is part of the Wetsus research theme Advanced Water Treatment.
The following companies are part of the theme:
DUNEA, Evides, Heineken, Oasen, Paques, Unilever, Veco, Vitens, WON.

Promotor: Prof. dr. Bert van der Wal (Wageningen University)
Co-promotor: Dr. Evan Spruijt (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Wetsus supervisors: Dr. Maarten Biesheuvel

For more information contact

9th call is closed. You can no longer apply.

Wetsus, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

combining scientific excellence with commercial relevance