Membrane-Cyber-Physical System (m-CPS) for Smart Water Treatment

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


Filter membranes play a critical role in providing clean drinking water, access to which is one of the most pivotal human rights. Typically, the operation of the filters has relied on manual, local monitoring of operational markers such as flow rates and contaminants' concentrations. This need for hands on expert maintenance is preventing membrane technology from reaching its full potential. To correct this, the monitoring of water filter needs to be achieved by sensors, transmitting data in real-time for centralised artificial intelligence (AI) based analysis. Such an AI driven water filter system must be scalable to meet with the global demands for clean water. There is therefore a massive global opportunity for membrane systems to benefit from being implemented as cyber-physical systems (CPS).

This discipline hopping grant (DHG) will provide the PI and discipline hopper Das with an immersive information and communication technology (ICT) experience. It will enable him to bring the ICT capabilities and use of smart wireless-sensor technologies for autonomous, real-time monitoring, together with AI driven data analytics within the broader area of CPS into his home discipline relating to membrane water treatment. This will be achieved by supporting/mentoring the PI at 50% FTE for 2 years to experience ways for developing a membrane-CPS (m-CPS) based on intelligent CPS architecture, embedded with a smart wireless sensor network (WSN) for continuous real-time monitoring of the performance of a membrane-treatment unit enhanced by cloud-based AI data analytics and decision making.

Planned Impact

It is envisaged that the impacts of this DHG will be significant and long lasting, which would be achieved via six pathways to impact (PWI). Below is a discussion on who might benefit from the DHG, and how.

PWI1 - Career development:
During the DHG, Das will work with ICT experts (CIs and academic project partners) and possible end users of m-CPS (Anax technologies and Severn Trent Water) in order to align common thinking, disseminate results, and learn contemporary ICT skills and practices. Once completed, the ICT skills obtained in the DHG will also be transferrable to Das' other interests on real-time and remote soil quality monitoring. Thus, in the short to medium term, the DHG will increase Das' portfolio of research. This would improve the UK future research base, particularly, ICT based water engineering approaches.

PWI2 - ICT skills:
One important impact of the DHG will be that Das will acquire new ICT skills and knowledge (e.g., CPS, WSN design, cloud-based data analytics), which will help answer future research questions in his home discipline. These will provide a pathway for effective remote monitoring of water quality in the membrane-based system and deployment of such systems in remote areas. Therefore, the DHG provides to the UK academics an excellent pathway for long-term impacts via application-specific research.

PWI3 - Knowledge transfer:
By providing an immersive ICT environment to Das, the DHG will enable him to gain knowledge, experience and practical skills on ICT (e.g., CPS design, configuration of the physical WSN layer, developing relevant AI algorithms for the cyber layer). At the same time, the DHG will lead to transfer of vital knowledge acquired and generated during the DHG from the non-ICT to ICT as Das will share his knowledge and expertise from water engineering with the CPS, WSN and data analytic experts (CIs and academic project partners). During the course of the DHG, Das will also engage with industrial partners (Anax Technologies and Severn Trent Water), find further opportunities for knowledge transfer and apply the new ICT knowledge in the future (e.g., via KTP project) in water engineering fields via their specific needs.

PWI4 - Wider societal and academic impacts:
In the long run, the DHG will have major societal and academic impacts via enterprise projects, and funded by the UKRI, GCRF and/or the Newton Fund with the project partners from both the UK and abroad. This is because the DHG will address one of the most fundamental needs of the people, i.e., providing clean drinking water and monitoring of the water quality in the treatment system.

PWI5 - Students' and academic colleagues' knowledge:
Beyond the DHG period, the project will allow Das to be involved in joint supervisions to enhance the learning of post-doctoral, doctoral, masters and undergraduate researchers' projects relating to ICT-based water treatment. These activities are expected to lead to journal publications and/or students' reports in fulfilling the requirements of their studies which would be a real impact of the DHG as Das would enhance knowledge in a different discipline (ICT). Furthermore, Das will be able to contribute to the development of new ICT based chemical engineering module for teaching in his parent department.

PWI6 - Wider knowledge generation and dissemination:
As m-CPS is still a new concept, it is expected that the developed methodology and obtained results will be published in leading journal which are outside Das' normal publication routes. Das will attend a conference in a field which he would not normally connect. He will also organise a project closure workshop. These will provide important pathways for engagements with the ICT community and design of additional future impact-oriented activities. His engagements with the project partners will also provide the opportunities to explore further routes for knowledge generation and dissemination and, impact generation.


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Description Despite the negative impact of COVID-19 in the first two years of this award, we have developed an m-CPS-a membrane-CPS. This has provided me with the much-needed training required to learn sensor-based technologies, cyber-physical systems, and AI for the membrane-water treatment system. A working but simplified sensor-based membrane-based system has been developed and tested with various sensors that measure flow, pressure, and water depth within the water reservoir, which can mimic a single decentralised water treatment system.

As part of the original grant objectives, I was required to spend dedicated time in the project partners' locations (UTM, Malaysia and KIOS, Cyprus). Due to severe time pressure, only one of the trips has been completed so far. I have had regular engagements with the UK-based project partner, DMU, Leicester. Occasional engagements were achieved with all other UK-based project partners (Severn Trent and Anax). These engagements have provided the PI and discipline hopper with further learning experiences and directions for his future research on this topic.

The grant has also achieved two additional important goals. Firstly, it provided important training to UG and PGT students. Secondly, it has allowed Dr Das and the wider project team to engage and identify the key research gaps which may be addressed in the future via subsequent funding.
Exploitation Route The lessons and results from the development of the membrane-based system are very promising, particularly since this award's concept is applicable to a wide range of water security issues. During the engagement with project partners and CIS of this grant, we have identified several gaps in the current knowledge/technologies on decentralised membrane-based water systems. It is expected that the team will attempt to address these issues in a future project.
Sectors Aerospace

Defence and Marine


Food and Drink


Communities and Social Services/Policy

Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)





including Industrial Biotechology

Description Training of Postgraduate Students
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Title Membrane-Cyber Physical System 
Description A new experimental rig involving sensor-based measurements of water filtration in a circular flow filtration cell was developed. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The experimental rig has not yet been published, but it will be reported once the data analysis is completed. It will help develop a decentralised water filtration system where water security (or water quality data security) may be improved. 
Title ANN model for water filtration system 
Description An artificial neural network (ANN) model for the analysis of water treatment in membrane systems was developed. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2024 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact As of now, the developed ANN model can be used for online and continuous data analysis for membrane filtration systems. In the future, it may be developed further and used for ensuring data security (e.g., privacy) for multiple decentralised treatment systems. 
Description GCRF Additional Funds 
Organisation Loughborough University
Department Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This discipline-hopping award led to a collaborative project in the context of EPSRC's GCRF additional/consolidation grant, which was awarded to Dr Robert Edwards (PI) of Loughborough University. The original EPSRC grant number is EP/P029221/1 was led by Dr Edwards, who is a CI in this grant (EP/V001663/1). I was a CI in this EPSRC's GCRF additional fund and contributed as an expert of water engineer on issues of water quality and treatment.
Collaborator Contribution I contributed as an expert in water engineering and discussed issues of water quality and treatment in stakeholder engagements. This helped to increase the impact of the original GCRF project. A press released in this effect was released in Mexico which may be found below
Impact NA
Start Year 2023