Graduate’s patent-pending technology highlighted by North American Membrane Society

KAUST alumna Jamaliah Aburabi’e’s (M.S. ‘10, Ph.D. ’17) patent-pending technology has been highlighted in the North American Membrane Society's magazine. Photo by Meres J. Weche.

​-By Caitlin Clark, KAUST News

The North American Membrane Society (NAMS) recently published KAUST master's degree and Ph.D. graduate Jamaliah Aburabi'e's (M.S. '10, Ph.D. '17) patent-pending membrane technology in their Membrane Quarterly magazine.

In the article, NAMS discussed three notable patents on membrane preparations filed in 2017, including the patent 2017/0225127 filed by Aburabi'e and her KAUST advisor Professor Klaus-Viktor Peinemann.

A new membrane preparation method

"The patent describes a new method for the preparation of anisotropic/cross-linked membranes," explained Aburabi'e. "The membranes prepared with this method are potential candidates in the growing area of nanofiltration of solute/organic solvent mixtures. In theory, the method sounds impossible, but actual experiments proved that the impossible can be done.

"Our method reduces the number of steps in membrane preparation, which translates into an energy-efficient process. Our method also allows customization of the selective layer of the outcome membrane, which translates into covering a wide range of separation performance, as well as the selective positioning of certain functionalities in the top layer of the membrane where needed."

Aburabi'e felt "happy and overwhelmed" that her patent-pending technology was recognized by NAMS. "I have no words to describe my gratitude to my advisor Professor Peinemann for his endless encouragement and support," she said.

Studies at KAUST

Aburabi'e joined KAUST in 2009 as a founding class student after completing her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at Jordan's University of Science and Technology (JUST). She carried out her master's degree research in chemical engineering under the supervision of KAUST Professor Ingo Pinnau, with a focus on natural gas sweetening using membranes.

"My advisor at JUST informed me of the opportunity to join KAUST—a beacon of knowledge for the Middle East and the world—and I was excited to be part of something new with great potential," she said. "During my master's degree, Professor Pinnau opened my eyes to membrane technology."

Aburabi'e's Ph.D. research in chemical engineering under Peinemann focused on the synthesis of polymers that have a high resistance to organic solvents and the preparation of membranes with different morphologies for use in organic solvent nanofiltration applications. Her KAUST research produced three publications, two submitted manuscripts and two patent applications.

A 'fruitful' time

After graduation, Aburabi'e is now exploring postdoctoral fellowship opportunities, and is also interested in a career in industry, as she comes from an engineering background.

"My experience at KAUST was fruitful in so many ways," she noted. "The University is a great institution, and there I got to develop my skills, was mentored by great minds and worked with advanced technologies. I also became friends with so many nationalities. I now consider KAUST my home and the Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Center members my family."

"KAUST offers so many things, and you only need to reach for them," Aburabi'e advised potential new students. "At KAUST, you have everything—everything is in your hands."

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