Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Cooperation with partners in the Middle East aims to provide drinking water to settlements in the Persian Gulf
Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz (JGU) is involved in an international research project launched by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The aim of the project is to improve water security in the Middle East. Various cross-border research and development projects will be carried out, ranging from the use of innovative water technologies to effective approaches to water sector management. The Mainz teams, led by Prof. Sebastian Seiffert from JGU and Prof. Michael Maskos, also from JGU and Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Microengineering and Microsystems IMM, will participate in the BMBF project and collaborate with three partners from Iran. and Iraq. “Our goal is to use temperature-sensitive polymer gels to convert Persian Gulf seawater into potable water to supply small towns in the region – an energy independent process that is simply driven by the alternation of day and night “, explained Sebastian Seiffert. , professor of physical chemistry of polymers at JGU. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research will support the project with funding of 600,000 euros over the next three years.
Mainz’s expertise in the field of polymer gels is one of the cornerstones of the project
The intention is to develop desalination processes inspired by direct membrane osmosis and without membrane, a technique for separating liquids. There will be two main phases of development: In the first phase, the focus will be on the development of optimized hydrogels and new membrane concepts. In the second phase, a laboratory configuration of a desalination plant will be created using the components developed and then tested on site by one of the project partners. “We hope that this will lay the foundations for the development of simple desalination plants capable of supplying small towns with fresh water,” Seiffert stressed. Another key element of the project is to make a regional contribution to solving the global problem of water scarcity, which particularly affects countries in the Middle East. “The region is already characterized by conflict. This international collaboration with partners from formerly hostile Gulf states is an excellent way to prevent possible resource conflicts over drinking water that could arise due to climate change, ”added the chemist. Seiffert is also the spokesperson for the Adaptive Polymer Gels with Controlled Network Structure research unit funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
An additional advantage of the project is the multilateral cooperation involved. Although Iran and Iraq have good academic and industrial capacities in the field of desalination, the two countries have so far contributed relatively little to the progress of desalination programs in the Middle East – despite the fact that the Persian Gulf represents an important water resource in the region. . The German partners of the project have extensive know-how in the physico-chemistry of networks of heat-sensitive polymers and hydrogels, as well as in the fields of nanotechnology and the development of continuous production methods. “By pooling our various resources and expertise, we can provide that extra boost to move the project forward,” said Seiffert. He also expects collaboration between German and regional partners to continue and intensify, even after the end of the project, in order to foster even more cooperation in the field of water desalination.