• An Increase of Abundance and Transcriptional Activity for Acinetobacter junii Post Wastewater Treatment

      Jumat, Muhammad; Haroon, Muhammad; Aljassim, Nada I.; Cheng, Hong; Hong, Pei-Ying (MDPI AG, 2018-04-11)
      A membrane bioreactor (MBR)-based wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Saudi Arabia is assessed over a five-month period in 2015 and once in 2017 for bacterial diversity and transcriptional activity using metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Acinetobacter spp. are shown to be enriched in the chlorinated effluent. Members of the Acinetobacter genus are the most abundant in the effluent and chlorinated effluent. At the species level, Acinetobacter junii have higher relative abundances post MBR and chlorination. RNA-seq analysis show that, in A. junii, 288 genes and 378 genes are significantly upregulated in the effluent and chlorinated effluent, respectively, with 98 genes being upregulated in both. RT-qPCR of samples in 2015 and 2017 confirm the upregulation observed in RNA-seq. Analysis of the 98 genes show that majority of the upregulated genes are involved in cellular repair and metabolism followed by resistance, virulence, and signaling. Additionally, two different subpopulations of A. junii are observed in the effluent and chlorinated effluent. The upregulation of cellular repair and metabolism genes, and the formation of different subpopulations of A. junii in both effluents provide insights into the mechanisms employed by A. junii to persist in the conditions of a WWTP.
    • Flashed-feed VMD configuration as a novel method for eliminating temperature polarization effect and enhancing water vapor flux

      Alsaadi, Ahmad Salem; Alpatova, Alla; Lee, Jung Gil; Francis, Lijo; Ghaffour, NorEddine (Elsevier BV, 2018-05-28)
      The coupling of heat and mass transfer in membrane distillation (MD) process makes enhancing water vapor flux and determining MD membrane mass transfer coefficient (MTC) fairly challenging due to the development of temperature gradient near the membrane surface, referred to as temperature polarization (TP). As a result, the change in feed temperature at the membrane surface will be difficult to measure accurately. In this paper, the effect of TP was decoupled from the membrane MTC by preventing the liquid feed stream from contacting the membrane surface through the use of a novel custom-made vacuum MD (VMD) module design. Results showed that a temperature difference of 10°C between the feed bulk and feed temperatures at the membrane surface/interface is estimated to take place in the typical VMD configuration, while the proposed flashed-feed VMD configuration eliminates TP effect and gives a flux 3.5-fold higher (200kg/m2.hr) under similar operating conditions. Therefore, it can be concluded that heat transfer coefficient is considered to be the main factor controlling resistance of water vapor flux in the typical VMD configuration. The measured MTC of the tested commercial membrane was found to be more accurate and the highest among all reported MTCs in the MD literature (2.44×10−6kg/m2.s.Pa). Additionally, a transmembrane temperature difference of 5°C and 10°C in the novel configuration can produce water vapor fluxes of about 9kg/m2.hr and 40kg/m2.hr, respectively, at a feed temperature of 70°C, which is very attractive for scaling-up the process.
    • SiC-C Composite as A Highly Stable and Easily Regenerable Photothermal Material for Practical Water Evaporation

      Shi, Le; Shi, Yusuf; Li, Renyuan; Chang, Jian; Zaouri, Noor A.; Ahmed, Elaf Ali; Jin, Yong; Zhang, Chenlin; Zhuo, Sifei; Wang, Peng (American Chemical Society (ACS), 2018-05-26)
      Solar-driven water distillation by photothermal materials is emerging as a promising way of renewable energy-driven clean water production. In designing photothermal materials, light absorption, photo-to-thermal conversion efficiency, and ability to localize thermal energy at the water-air interface are three important considerations. However, one additional consideration, regenerability, has so far slipped out of the photothermal material designs at status quo. This work reveals that there is a fouling layer formed during photothermal evaporation of real seawater (Red Sea water) and domestic wastewater, which once formed, would be difficult to remove. Herein, we synthesize a SiC-C composite monolith as an effective photothermal material where carbon acts as photothermal component and SiC serves as a heat conductor and strong structural support. The high mechanical strength of the monolithic composite makes it able to withstand repeatedly high strength physical cleaning by brush scrubbing and sonication and the anti-carbon-loss mechanism generates zero carbon loss during the physical cleaning. In the case of the domestic wastewater evaporation, the bio- and organic foulants on the SiC-C composite monolith can be totally removed by annealing at 1000 oC in N2 atmosphere. We believe that the SiC-C composite monoliths are promising photothermal materials in practical solar-driven water evaporation applications thanks to their highly stable and easily regenerable properties and therefore more research efforts are warranted to further improve their performances.
    • Root bacterial endophytes confer drought resistance and enhance expression and activity of a vacuolar H+ -pumping pyrophosphatase in pepper plants

      Vigani, Gianpiero; Rolli, Eleonora; Marasco, Ramona; Dell'Orto, Marta; Michoud, Gregoire; Soussi, Asma; Raddadi, Noura; Borin, Sara; Sorlini, Claudia; Zocchi, Graziano; Daffonchio, Daniele (Wiley, 2018-05-22)
      It has been previously shown that the transgenic overexpression of the plant root vacuolar proton pumps H+ -ATPase (V-ATPase) and H+ -PPase (V-PPase) confer tolerance to drought. Since plant-root endophytic bacteria can also promote drought tolerance, we hypothesize that such promotion can be associated to the enhancement of the host vacuolar proton pumps expression and activity. To test this hypothesis, we selected two endophytic bacteria endowed with an array of in vitro plant growth promoting traits. Their genome sequences confirmed the presence of traits previously shown to confer drought resistance to plants, such as the synthesis of nitric oxide and of organic volatile organic compounds. We used the two strains on pepper (Capsicuum annuum L.) because of its high sensitivity to drought. Under drought conditions, both strains stimulated a larger root system and enhanced the leaves' photosynthetic activity. By testing the expression and activity of the vacuolar proton pumps, H+ -ATPase (V-ATPase) and H+ -PPase (V-PPase), we found that bacterial colonization enhanced V-PPase only. We conclude that the enhanced expression and activity of V-PPase can be favoured by the colonization of drought-tolerance-inducing bacterial endophytes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    • Sunlight Induced Rapid Oil Absorption and Passive Room-Temperature Release: An Effective Solution toward Heavy Oil Spill Cleanup

      Wu, Mengchun; Shi, Yusuf; Chang, Jian; Li, Renyuan; Ong, Chi Siang; Wang, Peng (Wiley, 2018-05-18)
      Rapid cleanup and easy recovery of spilled heavy oils is always a great challenge due to their high viscosity (>103 mPa s). One of the efficient methods to absorb highly viscous oils is to reduce their viscosity by increasing their temperature. In this work, the authors integrate the sunlight‐induced light‐to‐heat conversion effect of polypyrrole (PPy) and thermoresponsive property of poly(N‐isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAm) into the melamine sponge, which successfully delivers a fast heavy oil absorption under sunlight and passive oil release underwater at room temperature. Thanks to the rationally designed functionalities, the PNIPAm/PPy functionalized sponges possess oleophilicity and hydrophobicity under sunlight. Due to the photothermal effect of PPy, the sponges locally heat up contacting heavy oil under sunlight and reduce its viscosity to a point where the oil voluntarily flow into the pores of the sponge. The material in this work is able to rapidly absorb the heavy oil with room temperature viscosity as high as ≈1.60 × 105 mPa s. The absorbed oil can be passively forced out the sponge underwater at room temperature due to the hydrophilicity of PNIPAm. The sunlight responsive and multifunctional sponge represents a meaningful attempt in coming up with a sustainable solution toward heavy oil spill.
    • The regeneration of a liquid desiccant using direct contact membrane distillation to unlock the potential of coastal desert agriculture

      Cribbs, Kimberly (2018-04)
      In Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, a lack of freshwater, poor soil quality, and ambient temperatures unsuitable for cultivation for parts of the year hinders domestic agriculture. The result is a reliance on a fluctuating supply of imported fresh produce which may have high costs and compromised quality. There are agricultural technologies available such as hydroponics and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) that can allow GCC countries to overcome poor soil quality and ambient temperatures unsuitable for cultivation, respectively. Evaporative cooling is the most common form of cooling for CEA and requires a significant amount of water. In water-scarce regions, it is desirable for sea or brackish water to be used for evaporative cooling. Unfortunately, in many coastal desert regions, evaporative cooling does not provide enough cooling due to the high wet-bulb temperature of the ambient air during hot and humid months of the year. A liquid desiccant dehumidification system has been proven to lower the wet-bulb temperature of ambient air in the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to a level that allows for evaporative cooling to meet the needs of heat-sensitive crops. Much of the past research on the regeneration of the liquid desiccant solution has been on configurations that release water vapor back to the atmosphere. Studies have shown that the amount of water captured by the liquid desiccant when used to dehumidify a greenhouse can supply a significant amount of the water needed for irrigation. This thesis studied the regeneration of a magnesium chloride (MgCl2) liquid desiccant solution from approximately 20 to 31wt% by direct contact membrane distillation and explored the possibility of using the recovered water for irrigation. Two microporous hydrophobic PTFE membranes were experimentally tested and modeled when the bulk feed and coolant temperature difference was between 10 and 60°C. In eight experiments, the salt rejection was higher than 99.97% and produced permeate suitable for irrigation with a concentration of MgCl2 less than 94 ppm.
    • Artificial 3D hierarchical and isotropic porous polymeric materials

      Chisca, Stefan; Musteata, Valentina-Elena; Sougrat, Rachid; Behzad, Ali Reza; Nunes, Suzana Pereira (American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2018-05-11)
      Hierarchical porous materials that replicate complex living structures are attractive for a wide variety of applications, ranging from storage and catalysis to biological and artificial systems. However, the preparation of structures with a high level of complexity and long-range order at the mesoscale and microscale is challenging. We report a simple, nonextractive, and nonreactive method used to prepare three-dimensional porous materials that mimic biological systems such as marine skeletons and honeycombs. This method exploits the concurrent occurrence of the self-assembly of block copolymers in solution and macrophase separation by nucleation and growth. We obtained a long-range order of micrometer-sized compartments. These compartments are interconnected by ordered cylindrical nanochannels. The new approach is demonstrated using polystyrene-b-poly(t-butyl acrylate), which can be further explored for a broad range of applications, such as air purification filters for viruses and pollution particle removal or growth of bioinspired materials for bone regeneration.
    • Cell-element simulations to optimize the performance of osmotic processes in porous membranes

      Calo, Victor M.; Iliev, Oleg; Nunes, Suzana Pereira; Printsypar, Galina; Shi, Meixia (Elsevier BV, 2018-05-11)
      We present a new module of the software tool PoreChem for 3D simulations of osmotic processes at the cell-element scale. We consider the most general fully coupled model (see e.g., Sagiv and Semiat (2011)) in 3D to evaluate the impact on the membrane performance of both internal and external concentration polarization, which occurs in a cell-element for different operational conditions. The model consists of the Navier–Stokes–Brinkman system to describe the free fluid flow and the flow within the membrane with selective and support layers, a convection–diffusion equation to describe the solute transport, and nonlinear interface conditions to fully couple these equations. First, we briefly describe the mathematical model and discuss the discretization of the continuous model, the iterative solution, and the software implementation. Then, we present the analytical and numerical validation of the simulation tool. Next, we perform and discuss numerical simulations for a case study. The case study concerns the design of a cell element for the forward osmosis experiments. Using the developed software tool we qualitatively and quantitatively investigate the performance of a cell element that we designed for laboratory experiments of forward osmosis, and discuss the differences between the numerical solutions obtained with the full 3D and reduced 2D models. Finally, we demonstrate how the software enables investigating membrane heterogeneities.
    • Use of unmanned aerial vehicles for efficient beach litter monitoring

      Martin, Cecilia; Parkes, Stephen; Zhang, Qiannan; Zhang, Xiangliang; McCabe, Matthew; Duarte, Carlos M. (Elsevier BV, 2018-05-05)
      A global beach litter assessment is challenged by use of low-efficiency methodologies and incomparable protocols that impede data integration and acquisition at a national scale. The implementation of an objective, reproducible and efficient approach is therefore required. Here we show the application of a remote sensing based methodology using a test beach located on the Saudi Arabian Red Sea coastline. Litter was recorded via image acquisition from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, while an automatic processing of the high volume of imagery was developed through machine learning, employed for debris detection and classification in three categories. Application of the method resulted in an almost 40 times faster beach coverage when compared to a standard visual-census approach. While the machine learning tool faced some challenges in correctly detecting objects of interest, first classification results are promising and motivate efforts to further develop the technique and implement it at much larger scales.
    • Adsorption desalination—Principles, process design, and its hybrids for future sustainable desalination

      Shahzad, Muhammad Wakil; Burhan, Muhammad; Ang, Li; Ng, Kim Choon (Elsevier, 2018-05-03)
      The energy, water, and environment nexus is a crucial factor when considering the future development of desalination plants or industry in water-stressed economies. The new generation of desalination processes or plants has to meet the stringent environment discharge requirements and yet the industry remains highly energy efficient and sustainable when producing good potable water. Water sources, either brackish or seawater, have become more contaminated as feed while the demand for desalination capacities increases around the world. One immediate solution for energy efficiency improvement comes from the hybridization of the proven desalination processes to the newer processes of desalination: For example, the integration of the available heat-driven to adsorption desalination (AD) cycles where significant thermodynamic synergy can be attained when cycles are combined. For these hybrid cycles, a quantum improvement in energy efficiency as well as an increase in water production can be expected. The advent of MED with AD cycles, or simply called the MED-AD cycles, is one such example where seawater desalination can be pursued and operated in cogeneration with the electricity production plants: The hybrid desalination cycles utilize only the low exergy bled-stream at low temperatures, complemented with waste exhaust or renewable solar thermal heat at temperatures between 60°C and 80°C. In this chapter, the authors have reported their pioneered research on aspects of AD and related hybrid MED-AD cycles, both at theoretical models and experimental pilots. Using the cogeneration of electricity and desalination concepts, the authors examine the cost apportionment of fuel cost by the quality or exergy of the working steam for such cogeneration configurations.
    • Thin porphyrin composite membranes with enhanced organic solvent transport

      Phuoc, Duong; Anjum, Dalaver H.; Peinemann, Klaus-Viktor; Nunes, Suzana Pereira (Elsevier BV, 2018-05-01)
      Extending the stability of polymeric membranes in organic solvents is important for applications in chemical and pharmaceutical industry. Thin-film composite membranes with enhanced solvent permeance are proposed, using porphyrin as a building block. Hybrid polyamide films are formed by interfacial polymerization of 5,10,15,20-(tetra-4-aminophenyl)porphyrin/m-phenylene diamine (MPD) mixtures with trimesoyl chloride. Porphyrin is a non-planar molecule, containing a heterocyclic tetrapyrrole unit. Its incorporation into a polyamide film leads to higher free volume than that of a standard polyamide film. Polyamide films derived from porphyrin and MPD amines with a fixed total amine concentration of 1wt% and various porphyrin/MPD ratios were fabricated and characterized. The porphyrin/MPD polyamide film was complexed with Cu(II), due to the binding capacity of porphyrin to metal ions. By coupling scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) with electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS), Cu mapping was obtained, revealing the distribution of porphyrin in the interfacial polymerized layer. By using porphyrin as amine-functionalized monomer a membrane with thin selective skin and enhanced solvent transport is obtained, with good dye selectivity in the nanofiltration range. For instance, an ultra-fast hexane permeance, 40-fold increased, was confirmed when using 0.5/0.5 porphyrin/MPD mixtures, instead of only MPD as amine monomer. A rejection of 94.2% Brilliant Blue R (826g/mol) in methanol was measured.
    • Evaluating the effect of different draw solutes in a baffled osmotic membrane bioreactor-microfiltration using optical coherence tomography with real wastewate

      Pathak, Nirenkumar; Fortunato, Luca; Li, Sheng; Chekli, Laura; Phuntsho, Sherub; Ghaffour, NorEddine; Leiknes, TorOve; Shon, Ho Kyong (Elsevier BV, 2018-05-03)
      This study investigated the performance of an integrated osmotic and microfiltration membrane bioreactor for real sewage employing baffles in the reactor. To study the biofouling development on forward osmosis membranes optical coherence tomography (OCT) technique was employed. On-line monitoring of biofilm growth on a flat sheet cellulose triacetate forward osmosis (CTA-FO) membrane was conducted for 21 days. Further, the process performance was evaluated in terms of water flux, organic and nutrient removal, microbial activity in terms of soluble microbial products (SMP) and extracellular polymeric substance (EPS), and floc size. The measured biofouling layer thickness was in the order sodium chloride (NaCl) > ammonium sulfate (SOA) > potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KH2PO4). Very high organic removal (96.9±0.8 %) and reasonably good nutrient removal efficiency (85.2±1.6 % TN) was achieved. The sludge characteristics and biofouling layer thickness suggest that less EPS and higher floc size were the governing factors for less fouling.
    • Bacteriophage Infectivity Against Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Saline Conditions

      Scarascia, Giantommaso; Yap, Scott A.; Kaksonen, Anna H.; Hong, Pei-Ying (Frontiers Media SA, 2018-05-02)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a ubiquitous member of marine biofilm, and reduces thiosulfate to produce toxic hydrogen sulfide gas. In this study, lytic bacteriophages were isolated and applied to inhibit the growth of P. aeruginosa in planktonic mode at different temperature, pH, and salinity. Bacteriophages showed optimal infectivity at a multiplicity of infection of 10 in saline conditions, and demonstrated lytic abilities over all tested temperature (25, 30, 37, and 45°C) and pH 6–9. Planktonic P. aeruginosa exhibited significantly longer lag phase and lower specific growth rates upon exposure to bacteriophages. Bacteriophages were subsequently applied to P. aeruginosa-enriched biofilm and were determined to lower the relative abundance of Pseudomonas-related taxa from 0.17 to 5.58% in controls to 0.01–0.61% in treated microbial communities. The relative abundance of Alphaproteobacteria, Pseudoalteromonas, and Planococcaceae decreased, possibly due to the phage-induced disruption of the biofilm matrix. Lastly, when applied to mitigate biofouling of ultrafiltration membranes, bacteriophages were determined to reduce the transmembrane pressure increase by 18% when utilized alone, and by 49% when used in combination with citric acid. The combined treatment was more effective compared with the citric acid treatment alone, which reported ca. 30% transmembrane pressure reduction. Collectively, the findings demonstrated that bacteriophages can be used as a biocidal agent to mitigate undesirable P. aeruginosa-associated problems in seawater applications.
    • Dual-Function Electrocatalytic and Macroporous Hollow-Fiber Cathode for Converting Waste Streams to Valuable Resources Using Microbial Electrochemical Systems

      Katuri, Krishna; Kalathil, Shafeer; Ragab, Ala'a; Bian, Bin; AlQahtani, Manal Faisal; Pant, Deepak; Saikaly, Pascal (Wiley, 2018-04-30)
      Dual-function electrocatalytic and macroporous hollow-fiber cathodes are recently proposed as promising advanced material for maximizing the conversion of waste streams such as wastewater and waste CO2 to valuable resources (e.g., clean freshwater, energy, value-added chemicals) in microbial electrochemical systems. The first part of this progress report reviews recent developments in this type of cathode architecture for the simultaneous recovery of clean freshwater and energy from wastewater. Critical insights are provided on suitable materials for fabricating these cathodes, as well as addressing some challenges in the fabrication process with proposed strategies to overcome them. The second and complementary part of the progress report highlights how the unique features of this cathode architecture can solve one of the intrinsic bottlenecks (gas-liquid mass transfer limitation) in the application of microbial electrochemical systems for CO2 reduction to value-added products. Strategies to further improve the availability of CO2 to microbial catalysts on the cathode are proposed. The importance of understanding microbe-cathode interactions, as well as electron transfer mechanisms at the cathode-cell and cell-cell interface to better design dual-function macroporous hollow-fiber cathodes, is critically discussed with insights on how the choice of material is important in facilitating direct electron transfer versus mediated electron transfer.
    • Fouling Resilient Perforated Feed Spacers for Membrane Filtration

      Kerdi, Sarah; Qamar, Adnan; Vrouwenvelder, Johannes S.; Ghaffour, NorEddine (Elsevier BV, 2018-04-24)
      The improvement of feed spacers with optimal geometry remains a key challenge for spiral-wound membrane systems in water treatment due to their impact on the hydrodynamic performance and fouling development. In this work, novel spacer designs are proposed by intrinsically modifying cylindrical filaments through perforations. Three symmetric perforated spacers (1-Hole, 2-Hole, and 3-Hole) were in-house 3D-printed and experimentally evaluated in terms of permeate flux, feed channel pressure drop and membrane fouling. Spacer performance is characterized and compared with standard no perforated (0-Hole) design under constant feed pressure and constant feed flow rate. Perforations in the spacer filaments resulted in significantly lowering the net pressure drop across the spacer filled channel. The 3-Hole spacer was found to have the lowest pressure drop (50% - 61%) compared to 0-Hole spacer for various average flow velocities. Regarding permeate flux production, the 0-Hole spacer produced 5.7 L.m-2.h-1 and 6.6 L.m-2.h-1 steady state flux for constant pressure and constant feed flow rate, respectively. The 1-Hole spacer was found to be the most efficient among the perforated spacers with 75% and 23% increase in permeate production at constant pressure and constant feed flow, respectively. Furthermore, membrane surface of 1-Hole spacer was found to be cleanest in terms of fouling, contributing to maintain higher permeate flux production. Hydrodynamic understanding of these perforated spacers is also quantified by performing Direct Numerical Simulation (DNS). The performance enhancement of these perforated spacers is attributed to the formation of micro-jets in the spacer cell that aided in producing enough unsteadiness/turbulence to clean the membrane surface and mitigate fouling phenomena. In the case of 1-Hole spacer, the unsteadiness intensity at the outlet of micro-jets and the shear stress fluctuations created inside the cells are higher than those observed with other perforated spacers, resulting in the cleanest membrane surface.
    • Enhanced canopy growth precedes senescence in 2005 and 2010 Amazonian droughts

      Liu, Yi Y.; van Dijk, Albert I.J.M.; Miralles, Diego G.; McCabe, Matthew; Evans, Jason P.; de Jeu, Richard A.M.; Gentine, Pierre; Huete, Alfredo; Parinussa, Robert M.; Wang, Lixin; Guan, Kaiyu; Berry, Joe; Restrepo-Coupe, Natalia (Elsevier BV, 2018-04-09)
      Unprecedented droughts hit southern Amazonia in 2005 and 2010, causing a sharp increase in tree mortality and carbon loss. To better predict the rainforest's response to future droughts, it is necessary to understand its behavior during past events. Satellite observations provide a practical source of continuous observations of Amazonian forest. Here we used a passive microwave-based vegetation water content record (i.e., vegetation optical depth, VOD), together with multiple hydrometeorological observations as well as conventional satellite vegetation measures, to investigate the rainforest canopy dynamics during the 2005 and 2010 droughts. During the onset of droughts in the wet-to-dry season (May–July) of both years, we found large-scale positive anomalies in VOD, leaf area index (LAI) and enhanced vegetation index (EVI) over the southern Amazonia. These observations are very likely caused by enhanced canopy growth. Concurrent below-average rainfall and above-average radiation during the wet-to-dry season can be interpreted as an early arrival of normal dry season conditions, leading to enhanced new leaf development and ecosystem photosynthesis, as supported by field observations. Our results suggest that further rainfall deficit into the subsequent dry season caused water and heat stress during the peak of 2005 and 2010 droughts (August–October) that exceeded the tolerance limits of the rainforest, leading to widespread negative VOD anomalies over the southern Amazonia. Significant VOD anomalies were observed mainly over the western part in 2005 and mainly over central and eastern parts in 2010. The total area with significant negative VOD anomalies was comparable between these two drought years, though the average magnitude of significant negative VOD anomalies was greater in 2005. This finding broadly agrees with the field observations indicating that the reduction in biomass carbon uptake was stronger in 2005 than 2010. The enhanced canopy growth preceding drought-induced senescence should be taken into account when interpreting the ecological impacts of Amazonian droughts.
    • Using Multi-Spectral UAV Imagery to Extract Tree Crop Structural Properties and Assess Pruning Effects

      Johansen, Kasper; Raharjo, Tri; McCabe, Matthew (MDPI AG, 2018-04-18)
      Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) provide an unprecedented capacity to monitor the development and dynamics of tree growth and structure through time. It is generally thought that the pruning of tree crops encourages new growth, has a positive effect on fruiting, makes fruit-picking easier, and may increase yield, as it increases light interception and tree crown surface area. To establish the response of pruning in an orchard of lychee trees, an assessment of changes in tree structure, i.e. tree crown perimeter, width, height, area and Plant Projective Cover (PPC), was undertaken using multi-spectral UAV imagery collected before and after a pruning event. While tree crown perimeter, width and area could be derived directly from the delineated tree crowns, height was estimated from a produced canopy height model and PPC was most accurately predicted based on the NIR band. Pre- and post-pruning results showed significant differences in all measured tree structural parameters, including an average decrease in tree crown perimeter of 1.94 m, tree crown width of 0.57 m, tree crown height of 0.62 m, tree crown area of 3.5 m2, and PPC of 14.8%. In order to provide guidance on data collection protocols for orchard management, the impact of flying height variations was also examined, offering some insight into the influence of scale and the scalability of this UAV based approach for larger orchards. The different flying heights (i.e. 30, 50 and 70 m) produced similar measurements of tree crown width and PPC, while tree crown perimeter, area and height measurements decreased with increasing flying height. Overall, these results illustrate that routine collection of multi-spectral UAV imagery can provide a means of assessing pruning effects on changes in tree structure in commercial orchards, and highlight the importance of collecting imagery with consistent flight configurations, as varying flying heights may cause changes to tree structural measurements.
    • Solar-Assisted Fast Cleanup of Heavy Oil Spill by a Photothermal Sponge

      Chang, Jian; Shi, Yusuf; Wu, Mengchun; Li, Renyuan; Shi, Le; Jin, Yong; Qing, Weihua; Tang, Chuyang; Wang, Peng (Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), 2018-04-16)
      Rapid cleanup of heavy oil spill is always considered as a great challenge because the conventional porous oil sorbents cannot efficiently remove them due to the high viscosity of the oil (>1000 mPa·s). In this work, we take advantage of the photothermal effect to heating the heavy oil by using sunlight as energy source to significantly reduce the viscosity of the heavy oil and thus to achieve a fast heavy oil cleanup. A carbon nanotube (CNT) modified polyurethane sponge was fabricated as photothermal sorbent that exhibited superhydrophobicity, superoleophilicity, as well as outstanding absorption capacity of heavy oil. Thanks to the excellent photothermal effect of CNTs, the modified sponge achieved nearly full sunlight absorption (99%). The resulting solar heating effectively reduced the viscosity of the heavy oil, which enabled the modified sponge to quickly absorb heavy oil of 20 times its own weight under sun illumination. This solar-assisted heavy oil sorbent design is promising for future remediation of viscous oil-spills.
    • Boron evaporation in thermally-driven seawater desalination: Effect of temperature and operating conditions

      Alpatova, Alla; Alsaadi, Ahmad Salem; Ghaffour, NorEddine (Elsevier BV, 2018-03-26)
      The volatilization of boron in thermal desalination processes, namely multi-stage flash (MSF) and air-gap membrane distillation (AGMD) was investigated for the first time. This phenomenon was observed at feed temperatures above 55 °C in both studied processes. In simulated MSF process with two feeds, model boric acid and Red Sea water, boron concentration in distillate increased with feed temperature increase from 55 °C to 104 °C because of the increase in boric acid vapor pressure. Salinity and pH were the main factors controlling boron evaporation. The achieved boron concentrations in simulated MSF process were consistent with those measured in distillate samples collected from commercial MSF plants. The AGMD process also revealed a strong influence of operating temperature on boron removal. However, unlike MSF process, the boron concentration in AGMD permeate decreased with the feed temperature increase from 55 °C to 80 °C due probably to increase in vapor production and corresponding permeate dilution. When AGMD was operated in concentrating mode at a constant feed temperature of 80 °C, permeate boron concentration increased with process time due to concentration polarization and membrane fouling. A 10% flux decline observed after 21 h was attributed to CaCO scaling on the membrane surface.
    • A 3D Photothermal Structure toward Improved Energy Efficiency in Solar Steam Generation

      Shi, Yusuf; Li, Renyuan; Jin, Yong; Zhuo, Sifei; Shi, Le; Chang, Jian; Hong, Seunghyun; Ng, Kim Choon; Wang, Peng (Elsevier BV, 2018-04-18)
      Summary The energy efficiency in solar steam generation by 2D photothermal materials has approached its limit. In this work, we fabricated 3D cylindrical cup-shaped structures of mixed metal oxide as solar evaporator, and the 3D structure led to a high energy efficiency close to 100% under one-sun illumination due to the capability of the cup wall to recover the diffuse reflectance and thermal radiation heat loss from the 2D cup bottom. Additional heat was gained from the ambient air when the 3D structure was exposed under one-sun illumination, leading to an extremely high steam generation rate of 2.04 kg m−2 h−1. The 3D structure has a high thermal stability and shows great promise in practical applications including domestic wastewater volume reduction and seawater desalination. The results of this work inspire further research efforts to use 3D photothermal structures to break through the energy efficiency limit of 2D photothermal materials.