Water processing technology

Our activities 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.


We use a number of facilities for our research including:

  • 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.


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

Theme lead

Judy Lee profile image

Dr Judy Lee

Research Theme Lead