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Freo is the scene of the 4th desalination using membrane technology (MemDes) conference

Perth (Australia) has been dealing with severe water shortages, which has been mitigated by the construction of two large desalination plants: the Perth desalination plant of 45 billion litres per day constructed in 2006 and the Southern Perth Seawater desalination plant of 100 billion litres per day been built-in 2011. Both plants account for approximately half of Perth’s water supply by the Water Corporation.

Although nowadays all major Australian cities heavily rely on membrane desalination, Perth is the king of them all boasting among the largest plants in Australia (and even worldwide). The small town Fremantle (Freo) south of Perth is the scene for the 4th International Conference on desalination using membrane technology (MemDes 1- 4 Dec) attended by many international membrane experts. Desalination remains a fast-growing market, and 2019 promises to become a peak year in installed membrane capacity per year, overtaking the previous top year of 2007 when large desalination plants were constructed worldwide, among which the NEWater plants in Singapore, Askelon in Israel and Barcelona in Spain. This year more than 50% of the installation desalination capacity is in the Middle East.

During the conference, the right balance between application and novel desalination research was presented, with a strong emphasis on novel membranes. We presented our work on the novel Natural Virus (NV) method to be able to determine a >7 log-virus removal which is unique in the field of membrane integrity monitoring. This presentation attracted, therefore, much interest from both researchers and practitioners. Also, our research at the Particle and Interfacial Technology (PaInt) groups of the Ghent University was presented by prof Emile Cornelissen. Both the topics of transport of organic micropollutants through ion exchange membranes (PhD research of Lingshan Ma) and Lithium selective layer-by-layer membranes (PhD research of Mohammed Kazemebad) did strike a chord with the audience resulting in vivid discussions and interactions afterwards.

Beautiful and sunny Freo in Australian summertime is a pleasant short interlude from the dark and cold Dutch winter days. Plenty of much needed and provided refreshments all strongly depend on ever-increasing and evolving desalination technology.