Water processing technology

Our activities in the water processing technology research theme focus on developing innovative methods for sustainable desalination, waste water processing and water recycling, to address the rising global pressure for fresh water supply.


Fresh water is a precious natural resource, essential for agriculture, energy generation, life and ecosystems around the world. With fresh water making up less than 1% of the world’s water, coupled with the ever-growing demand and increase in water pollution, the world is facing a serious water crisis. This has forced industries to reassess their water usage and seek alternative wastewater treatment methods with the aim towards zero liquid discharge.

Research activity

Desalination is one answer to this crisis and in CORA we have been conducting research into novel, low-cost processes based on osmosis. Some wastewaters, especially sewage, can be treated with anaerobic digestion to make biogas. This biogas can be fed to a gas engine to generate renewable electricity which more than pays for the cost of treatment. Encouraging and optimising this technology is one of our research interests. Hydrothermal carbonisation and ultrasound processing are other methods of wastewater treatment that are currently being investigated.

Research Projects

  • Dynamic Control of Anaerobic Digestion for Flexible and Sustainable Generation in the Water Industry (with Thames Water)

  • Hydrothermal Carbonisation Process Water treatment for the design and improvement of a renewable fuel production process, 60% Antaco and 50% Surrey funded PhD studentship

  • Improving Hydrothermal Carbonisation for production of high value functional green chemistry materials from waste stream,  50% Antaco and 50% Surrey funded PhD studentship

  • Osmosis to enhance secondary oil production PhD Studentship

  • Functional membranes for biofouling remediation and nano/micro plastic removal, PhD project, 50% Deakin and 50% Surrey University Funded

  • Ultrasound stimulated crystallisation of functional materials for membrane synthesis, Surrey/NPL funded PhD studentship

  • Application of advanced oxidation assisted processes for industrial wastewater treatment, PhD project

  • Parametric effects of ultrasound in aqueous systems, PhD project

  • “Odour capture in sewage treatment works” Thames Water funded EngD project

  • Development of Low Cost Forward Osmosis Desalination: Application in Agricultural Irrigation, $280k, (2016), QRNF Funded, F. Cecelja (PI).

  • From sunlight to drinking water in Iraq, EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund, A. Campbell (PI)

  • Minimising Energy Consumption in the Water Industry: A Robust Model-Based Optimal Control Approach, EngD project, EPSRC & Perceptive Engineering Ltd funded,

  • Adding value to wastewater treatment-ultrasound enhanced crystallization, ARC funded, AUS$375k, (2012-2015), J. Lee (PI).


  • Pilot and bench scale Forward Osmosis, Reverse Osmosis, Nanofiltration systems
  • Hydrothermal Carbonisation Reactor
  • Ultrasound processing equipment (22-2MHz frequencies)
  • Andor ixon X3 low light camera for imaging low light sonoluminescence
  • Agilent ICP-OES
  • Osmometer

Key Publications

P. Alfonso-Muniozguren, J. Lee, M. Bussemaker, R. Chadeesingh, C. Jones, D. Oakley and D. Saroj, "A combined activated sludge-filtration-ozonation process for abattoir wastewater treatment", J. Water Process Eng. 2018, 25, 157.

Alaswad S, Al-aibi S, Alpay E, Sharif A (2018) Efficiency of Organic Draw Solutions in a Forward Osmosis Process Using Nano-filtration Flat Sheet Membrane, Journal of Chemical Engineering & Process Technology 9 (1) OMICS International

K. Kezia, J. Lee, B. Zisu, G. Chen, S. L. Gras and S.E. Kentish, " Solubility of calcium phosphate in concentrated dairy effluent brines", J. Agri. Food Chem., 2017, 65, 4027-4034.

Thorpe RB, Brampton B, Robson S, Perrault A. (2017) Investigating the effect of an alternative feedstock on the performance of sludge powered generators: developing a theoretical model and analysing trial data. International Water Association Proceedings of The IWA Specialist Conference On Sludge Management: Sludgetech 2017, Imperial College, London, UK.

K. Kezia, J. Lee, B. Zisu, M. Weeks, G. Chen, S. Gras and S. Kentish, “Crystallisation of minerals from concentrated saline dairy effluent”, Water Res., 2016, 101, 300-308.

Aliff Radzuan M, Abia-Biteo Belope M, Thorpe RB (2016) Removal of Fine Oil Droplets from Oil-in-Water Mixtures by Dissolved Air Flotation, Chemical Engineering Research and Design 115 (A) pp. 19-33

Hamdan M, Sharif AO, Derwish G, Al-Aibi S, Altaee A (2015) Draw solutions for Forward Osmosis process: Osmotic pressure of binary and ternary aqueous solutions of magnesium chloride, sodium chloride, sucrose and maltose, Journal of Food Engineering 155 pp. 10-15 Elsevier


Dr Madeleine Bussemaker and Dr Judy Lee with their students