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Intelligent Monitoring for
Sustainable Water Treatment


Membrane desalination  contributes globally to the potable water supply. However, the process suffers from retained matter accumulating on the membrane surface, the so-called membrane “fouling”.

Fouling requires putting the process in stand-by while cleaning the membranes, often with aggressive agents. This results in:

  • economic losses due to process downtimes
  • elevated costs for cleaning agents
  • reduced membrane life-time


SURPHASE offers a system capable of detecting fouling at an early-stage and with a sensitivity three orders of magnitude higher than that of conventional technologies. 

See where others cannot…

SURPHASE predicts detrimental levels of fouling while the process is still efficient. This offers the opportunity to:

  • schedule maintenance intervals well beforehand and maximize cleaning efficiency
  • prolong membrane lifetime


The Team

Iliane Rafaniello

Short bio

Iliane Rafaniello is responsible for the scientific and technical development of SURPHASE. She holds a degree in chemistry and a Master in Applied Chemistry and Polymers from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), with specialization in membrane processes for water treatment and production.

She is a researcher in the NanoBioSeparations Group at the Basque Excellence Research Centre for Macromolecular Design and Engineering, POLYMAT/University of the Basque Country.  She is currently finishing her PhD thesis within the Polymers and Chemistry programme of  UPV/EHU.

Her research has laid the foundations for the development of the technological basis of SURPHASE, from lab-scale to the market, and generously supported by the European Research Council (ERC).

Thomas Schäfer

Short bio

Thomas Schäfer is Ikerbasque Research Professor and leader of the NanoBioSeparations Group at the Basque Excellence Research Centre for Macromolecular Design and Engineering, POLYMAT/University of the Basque Country. Thomas has been working in the field of membrane technology since more than 25 years. He has worked in Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Australia, Portugal and Italy, before eventually settling in Spain supported by the European Research Council (ERC).

He has served as elected member in the Council of the European Membrane Society and co-organizes the innovative biannual “Imagine Membrane” conference series in close collaboration with the North American and European Membrane Societies.

Solutions for...


SURPHASE predicts at an early-stage and in a short-term the fouling tendency of desalination membranes. This provides an opportunity for the operator to plan the cleaning cycles well ahead. The data obtained by SURPHASE enable a long-term optimization of the operation of the desalination plant.

Solutions for...


By detecting fouling at an early-stage, SURPHASE helps keeping membrane lifetime at the level warranted by the manufacturer.

Furthermore, as an intelligent monitoring device SURPHASE offers the possibility to record – similar to a “black box” – the operating conditions the membrane is being exposed to during operation. 

Solutions for...


SURPHASE enables an optimized design of new desalination plants based on the big data obtained from its network of monitoring devices.

Until today, a significant amount of desalination plants is designed on standard concepts which can be far from optimum. In these cases, posterior adaptation of the plant can turn out costly and even economically inviable, resulting in an inefficient operation of the desalination plant.

Solutions for...


SURPHASE enables designing a strategy toward the most sustainable use of detergents. This means a significant advantage for cleaning agent producers over their competitors.

We have learnt that our device offers producers of cleaning agents a unique tool to test their formulations in situ and in real time. This is in stark contrast to current trial&error approaches which are unable to systematically verify the actual detergent efficiency, both ecologically and economically.