Almotasembellah Abushaban

PhD fellow


Motasem Abushaban is a Water Treatment and Desalination Engineer who is currently working as a researcher at IHE Delft, Netherlands.Abushaban has been involved in several projects related to membrane filtration technology including biological fouling and scaling of reverse osmosis membranes and pre-coating of ultra-filtration membrane.Moreover, he has been working as water consultant engineer for 2 years, in which he has been involved in designing and construction of various water supply projects. Mr Abushaban awarded doctoral degree on 3 December 2019. Find the link to his thesis here:  


Biological fouling and scaling in reveres Osmosis membrane systems

Research Summary

Reverse osmosis (RO) membrane technology has emerged as one of the most innovative solutions in the last century to meet the ever increasing global need for reliable and safe water. This technology is mainly applied for seawater desalination, surface and ground water desalination, and wastewater reuse, but it is also widely used in food and industrial applications. Currently, the main "Achilles heel" for the effective application of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) is membrane fouling where the performance of RO membranes decline due to the attachment (growth, settled, or adsorbed) of foulant materials on the membrane surface. Such foulant materials include microorganisms, organic compound, and sparingly soluble inorganic salts. Microbial growth leads to the formation of a biofilm on the membrane surface which causes biofouling if the biofilm formation exceeded a certain level, while the deposition of inorganic salts lead to surface scale formation (scaling) on RO membrane surface. Operational problems triggered by fouling are increase in energy and chemical (for membrane cleaning) consumption and decrease the permeability of RO membrane. This research will focus on controlling membrane biofouling and scaling which are key to the cost-effective application of membrane based desalination system.

Early warning systems of RO biofouling allow optimization of RO pre-treatment processes and consequently successful control of biofouling in RO systems. However, to date, no single parameter is available that can predict boifouling in membrane based desalination systems. For this purpose, the removal of nutrients from feed water such as assimilable organic carbon (AOC) has gained attention as it is related to bacterial growth potential in water. In this research, it is hypothesized that limiting the AOC concentration in RO feed water minimizes microbial growth on RO membrane. AOC measurements are widely and successfully applied in membrane based desalination systems treating fresh water and make use of plate counting, flow cytometry, and bioluminescence/ATP to enumerate bacteria. Recently, two methods have been developed to measure AOC in seawater based on luminescence using Vibrio harveyi and Vibrio fischeri bacteria respectively. These methods are fast and have good detection limit but the use of single bacterial species may not represent the carbon utilization of indigenous bacteria. Thus, a new method using indigenous bacteria consortium with a low detection limit (LOD) is needed. To that end, another method for bacterial monitoring than natural bioluminescence should be used as it is not applicable with indigenous bacteria. In this research, ATP method is applied for monitoring of bacterial growth.


Journal Paper:

  • Abushaban, A., Salinas-Rodriguez, S. G., Dhakal, N., Schippers, J. C., and Kennedy, M. D. (2019) Assessing pretreatment and seawater reverse osmosis performance using an ATP-based bacterial growth potential method. Desalination, 2019. 467: p. 210-218.
  • Abushaban, A., Salinas-Rodriguez, S. G., Mangal, M. N., Mondal, S., Goueli, S. A., Knezev, A.,  Vrouwenvelder, J. S., Schippers, J. C., and Kennedy, M. D. (2019) ATP measurement in seawater reverse osmosis systems: Eliminating seawater matrix effects using a filtration-based method. Desalination, 2019. 453: p. 1-9.
  • Abushaban, A., Mangal, M. N., Salinas-Rodriguez, S. G., Nnebuo, C., Mondal, S., Goueli, S. A., . . . Kennedy, M. D. (2017). Direct measurement of ATP in seawater and application of ATP to monitor bacterial growth potential in SWRO pre-treatment systems. Desalination and Water Treatment, 99, 91-101. doi: 10.5004/dwt.2017.21783
  • Salinas Rodriguez, S.G., Prabowo, A., Abushaban, A., Battes, F., Schippers, J.C., & Kennedy, M.D. (2016). Pre-coating of outside-inside capillary UF membranes with iron hydroxide particles to limit non-backwashable fouling during seawater algal blooms. Desalination and Water Treatment, 57(55), 26730-26740. doi:10.1080/19443994.2016.1190111
  • Hamad, J., Eshtawi, T. A., Abushaban, A., and Habboub M. (2012) "Modeling the Impact of Land-Use Change on Water Budget of Gaza Strip," Journal of Water Resource and Protection, Vol. 4 No. 6, 2012, pp. 325-333. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2012.46036.

Conferece paper:

  • Abushaban, A., Salinas-Rodriguez, S. G., Mondal, S., Goueli, S. A., . . . Kennedy, M. D. (2017) A new method of assessing bacterial growth in seawater reverse osmosis systems: method development and applications. The International Desalination Association World Congress –Sao Paulo, Brazil, REF: IDA17WC-58031_ Abushaban.
  • Mondal, S., Abushaban, A., Salinas-Rodriguez, S. G., Goueli, S. A., . . . Kennedy, M. D. (2017) Development and application of new methods to measure bacterial activity and nutrients in seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO). American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA), Membrane Technology Conference & Exposition – February 2017, Long Beach, CA, USA.

Other information


  • Winner of IDA world congress 2017 innovation award in Sao Paulo, Brazil (Oct- 2017)
  • Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) Scholarship – 42,000 €  (Sep- 2012)
  • IUG Award of Scientific Research - 500 USD (Apr- 2012)
  • Environmental Creativity Award – First prize, Ministry of youth and sports (1,000 USD) (Feb- 2012)




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