MESA+ University of Twente
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Ikenna Ngene (promotion date: 27 May 2010)

Real time visual characterization of membrane fouling and cleaning

Promotion date: 27. May 2010

Promotors: Prof. Dr. Ir. Walter van der Meer
Assistant Promotor: Prof. Dr. Ir. Rob Lammertink

The research is aimed at visually characterizing membrane fouling as well as fouling removal. Deposition on the membrane surface was studied, like the buildup of ‘cake’ towards the channel exit.

It was observed that the biofilm formation and growth occurred upstream of micro structured membranes, contrary to reports in literature.

Air sparging was studied whereby dissolved CO2 was applied as a cleaning agent. It was observed that water/N2 sparging resulted in 80% restoration. Water/CO2 nucleation resulted in 100% restoration of the channel resistance, due to a better distribution of the bubbles within the channel.

Was there a special moment during your thesis project?

The cleaning technique using dissolved CO2 in water, could be proven to be very successful, and also be explained theoretically. That was the main result of the project, in my opinion. The project was performed in a partnership of Mesa+ with companies developing and using membranes commercially. It is up to them to build a pilot scale test. I hope they will do so in the near future, and that the method proposed proves to be successful in daily practice.

Did you manage to get some nice publications?

An article was published in the Journal of Membrane Science. Some other articles have also been submitted to the same journal for publication.

As a researcher, are you more of an experimentalist or someone who likes to build theoretical systems?

Oh no no, I am more of an experimentalist. That’s for sure. Although it drives me crazy every time. That is why I am attracted to it time and time again, I suppose. Every experiment has a strange element that is hard to explain. That kind of mysterious problems is different in every single case. It is very exciting to solve these in a creative manner.

As a researcher, I learned to analyze the issues involved, to build up experiments and carry them out precisely. Also I gained more basic knowledge of the membrane field, and writing down the results obtained more clearly.

What are your future plans?

At the moment I am working at TNO in Delft. The research is more customer oriented. The pressure for applicable results is much higher. Although the quality of fundamental research may not be as high, I find that aspect very exciting indeed.

After four years as a knowledge based researcher, I choose this job on purpose. I hope to learn the skills involved in this business environment.

In the future I would like to return back to Nigeria, my home country, and perhaps become a leader of a research team or institute. Research in Nigeria is not so widespread, but has a lot of potential, I am sure.

What is important for Mesa+ in the future, in your opinion?

Mesa+ is a nice institution, with a strong organization of research. I liked the meetings very much, to be informed of the projects happening at various groups. A lot of very smart people are working here. I definitely think Mesa+ has the potential to grow quite a lot.