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Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy (CCWCE) is located in the department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. The Center is focused on high impact collaborations in technology and science for clean water and clean energy.

To date, 30 MIT faculty from 7 Departments and Centers have been involved in Center’s research projects, as well as 265 graduate students and postdocs from across the Institute.

An eight-year research and educational partnership (2008-2016) between the Center and KFUPM (King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals) resulted in the following outcomes: over 530 publications in peer reviewed journals and conferences, about 30 US patents issued and two companies formed.

Our Research Projects

MIT PI: Prof. Kamal Youcef-Toumi 
KFUPM PI: Prof. R. Ben-Mansour

Research Outcomes:

  1. Developed and tested a new leak detection method that is based on the identification of the alterations in the pressure and flow fields in the neighborhood of a leak in pressurized pipelines.
  2. The new technology can be successfully applied to pipes with compressed gas, water or other media and is independent of pipe material or other factors.
  3.  Developed and validated in the field a channel model to characterize the effectiveness of wireless communications from underground targets to above ground receiver.
  4. Designed and fabricated in-pipe robots with superior maneuverability based on a new hub-less motor actuation system
  5. Designed and implemented Instrumentation and Control Systems for Maneuvering and Navigation
  6. Investigated various methods for direct leak repairing from the inside of the pipeline during or after leak surveys and during normal pipeline operation.
  7. Developed and validated a method for instrumenting large networks taking into account robot power requirements; and number, location and power requirements of relays so as to assure communication between robot(s) and a base control station.
  8. Conducted experimental tests in an industrial certified pipe network.

Major Project Outcomes:

  • Awarded 1 Gold, 2 Silver & 1 Bronze Medals in Geneva 41st Int. Invention Exhibition, 2013.
  • In-pipe robot technology selected among the 10 best technologies by AWWA ICW 2014.
  • High commercialization potential
  • 21 papers
  • 12 patent applications
  • 3 issued patents to date

The project's main goal was the development of leak sensors for water pipeline networks. The work included the following subgroups/modules:

(1) the Sensing module, (2) the Mobility module (3) and the Data Processing and Communication module.

Within the project, researchers at the Mechatronics Research Laboratory (MRL) at MIT and at KFUPM have been developing mobile robotic sensing platforms that can perform leak detection in pipes of any material and any medium. These robotic systems are able to navigate and maneuver inside the pipe network, and carry the necessary instrumentation for data collection and communication with the “outside world”. The team’s expertise covers all aspects of these platforms—leak detection, communication, robot design and fabrication, in addition to navigation and control.

Leak Detection System Demonstration during 2013 KFUPM workshop

MIT PI: Prof. John Lienhard
KFUPM PIs: Profs. M. Antar, S. Zubair, M. Sharqawy

Research Outcomes:

  1. New thermodynamic modeling tools developed for air-water humidification systems
  2. New theory of HDH balancing developed
  3. New concepts for bubbling humidifiers and dehumidifiers
  4. Demonstration for HDH technology with high salinity water, up to saturation conditions
  5. Multi-pressure, turbocharged HDH system invented
  6. Method developed to quantify the scaling potential of raw produced waters
  7. Widely-used codes and database for seawater thermophysical properties

Major Project Outcomes:

  • Approximately 60 research papers, some very highly cited
  • More than 15 US patents issued, with multiple commercial licenses taken
  • Successful spin-out company formed (Gradiant Corporation )
  • HDH Technology wins 2013 Water Technology Idol Award at Global Water Summit, Seville, Spain, 4/2013
  • Gradiant Corporation is named for Industrial Water Project of the Year in 2014 by Global Water Intelligence

This project investigated thermal technologies for desalination of seawater, wastewater from oil and gas production, and other saline liquids. The project had the following general themes: i) humidification-dehumidification (HDH) desalination systems based on various novel cycles; ii) the potential use of solar power for HDH desalination; iii) advanced components for these systems, including solar collectors, heat and mass exchangers, bubble column evaporators and condensers, and technologies for multipressure operation; iv) potential application of solar and thermal desalination technologies in off-grid scenarios; v) hybrid systems for small and/or large-scale thermal desalination; vi) assessment of the thermophysical properties of seawater; and vii) understanding the role of entropy generation in desalination system performance, including exergetic studies of cycle performance. 

MIT PIs: Prof. Evelyn Wang, Prof. Rohit Karnik
KFUPM PI: Tahar Laoui

Research Outcomes:

The project has led to the development of new concepts in water purification and desalination, fundamental understanding of transport in nanostructured materials, and advances in materials for nanofiltration, reverse osmosis, and capacitive deionization: (1) Development of novel zeolite membranes showing conclusively that hydrophobic MFI zeolite membranes have higher flux than their hydrophilic counterparts; (2) Development of single-layer nanoporous graphene membrane technology; (3) Demonstration of nanobubbles as the selective layer in membranes and fundamental measurements of transport across the vapor/liquid interface; (4) Development of a platform to study capacitive deionization using carbon nanotubes.

Major Project Outcomes:

  • 51 papers/conference presentations
  • work from this project has received over 500 citations
  • 2 patents
  • Startup company “GRoWater” founded to commercialize nanoporous graphene membranes for water purification

This project seeks to develop new membrane materials and processes for desalination from the perspective of fundamental understanding of nanoscale transport mechanisms, ultimately leading to the realization of novel nanostructured membranes with improved energy efficiency, flux, and fouling resistance.

Creating tunable pores in graphene