So, Simon − how did you first become involved in the water and wastewater industry?
Simon: It would be great to be able to say it was thanks to some perspicacious life planning. But, like many key junctures in most people’s lives, it was completely by accident.
What's your education and career background?
First degree in Chemistry. First job screening horse urine for drugs (let’s just leave it there). Quit that to do an MSc (one year) in Electrochemical Science. From there, took a three-year PhD programme (at Cranfield University in the UK).
That was in filtration science. Then got a job in nuclear waste processing research and was subsequently lured back to Cranfield as a Lecturer. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What, in your view, is the most important thing wastewater engineers should know about membranes?
Wastewater engineers − the practitioners − know plenty about membranes. It’s the academics that have a rather more constrained view.
Any membrane myths to debunk?
Maybe that membrane fouling is not necessarily a problem − particularly in membrane bioreactors and to a lesser extent in municipal potable water membrane filtration. If the routine chemical cleaning recovers the permeability, it means that the foulants have been removed. If not, it’s likely that the membranes are clogged. Clogging is not the same as fouling, and requires different strategies. It makes the whole idea of developing 'anti-fouling membranes' pretty much redundant. I’ve been banging on about this for over a decade, but I can’t say that it’s made much impression on the academic profession.
What do you do when you're not up to your eyeballs in membranes?
Try and sleep.
What's the plan, once you leave Qatar University?
Try and sleep. And do a bit more consultancy (but not too much: sleeping would be preferable).
In your view, what's the future for membrane technology?
People are always asking me this question. My standard response is always: if I knew the answer to that, do you really think I’d still be working as an academic?
Simon's private consultancy website is Judd Water and Wastewater Consultants