Adel Sharif

31 Aug 2012

Adel Sharif is Professor of Water Engineering and Process Innovation, and Founder Director of the Centre for Osmosis Research and Applications, (CORA) at the University of Surrey, UK. Prof. Sharif is a winner of the 2011 Queen’s Anniversay Prize ( and  the 2005 UK Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation in Science and Technology. He is also the winner of the 2008 Science Business first pan-European Academic Enterprise Award in the category of Energy/Environment.  Prof. Sharif founded CORA in 2003, the UN Year of Fresh Water. The centre’s research activities in the area of osmosis science and applications have resulted in a number of inventions in the areas of desalination, water treatment, and renewable power generation. These inventions have the capacity to significantly change the economic and performance characteristics of industries such as desalination, water treatment, power generation, oil, chemical and energy industries that use or produce large quantities of dilute solutions. CORA water technologies were also awarded the Institute of Chemical Engineers 2011 Innovation and Excellence award in the Water Supply and Management category. He is a founder of Modern Water plc, a London Exchange AIM Market listed company specialised in desalination and renewable power generation.  Prof. Sharif is a member of the Qatar Foundation’s Expatriate Arab Scientists Forum. He obtained his first degree in Chemical Engineering from Baghdad University in 1986, followed by M.Sc and PhD from University of Wales Swansea in 1989 and 1992 respectively. He has over 100 publications; is an inventor and co-inventor of 12 patents and has supervised over twenty PhD projects and more than 40 M.Sc dissertations.

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Low-Energy Production of Fresh Water from the Sea: Manipulated Reverse Osmosis

Water is not just the essential ingredient for life, but also a fundamental factor in the economy and security of any country. Coupled with increased population and climate change effect, the availability of food, water, and energy are the biggest challenges that the world faces. Over the next two decades water demand will exceed water supply by about 40% according to many scientific studies and reports. Food and energy shortages have also been described by the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Prof. Sir John Beddington, to create the ‘’perfect storm’’ by 2030.

The provision of drinkable supplies through desalination could offer a sustainable solution to the drinking water problem but also presents a technical challenge too. 

Seawater and brackish water are desalinated by thermal distillation and membrane methods such as reverse osmosis (RO) and electrodialysis.  All these methods involve high operating and investment costs.  RO is the most widely used desalination techniques, while thermal methods are mainly used in the Gulf countries. However, the high operating cost of RO is due to essential pre-treatment, scaling, bio-fouling and the high-energy consumption. 

A novel Manipulated Reverse Osmosis (MRO) desalination and water purification process has been invented and developed at the Centre for Osmosis Research and Applications at the University of Surrey in collaboration with Modern Water plc. In the MRO process seawater is converted into an osmotic agent’s solution by taking advantage of the natural osmosis process. Pure water is then recovered from the osmotic agent’s solution using a membrane process, where the agent is reused.

The technical obstacles being overcome in this process are the avoidance of all scaling, bio-fouling, high operating pressures, and necessity for pre-treatments and the associated chemical wastes, which result in direct and indirect reduction of cost.

The pilot plant and Modern Water’s commercial plants data in Oman and Gibraltar that follow from the MRO process route offers up to 30% saving in the specific energy consumption over a conventional RO process. The MO process also offers an increase in fresh water recovery rate coupled with minimal membrane fouling propensity and brine disposal. Additionally, the process can be incorporated into existing RO and thermal plants with reasonable modifications.  New plant based on the MRO principle should also have lower capital costs and smaller footprint.

The new technology can be used to obtain clean water from any available water source irrespective of its purity, such as waste streams, seawater, brackish water, river water, etc.