Xianzheng Ma, a postdoctoral student at Aalborg University, received a grant to mature “FiBrane”, a membrane distillation technology based on the work of Professor Vittorio Boffa and used in some of Project Ô’s water treatment modules. We asked Xianzheng Ma a few questions about the grant and Project Ô.
Daniela Martin: Tell us more about yourself?
Xianzheng Ma: I am working at the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience at Aalborg University. We have a division called the Centre for Membrane Technologies where I am working as a postdoc. For Project Ô, I was responsible for the filtration application for the desalination of the groundwater in Puglia, Italy, and also the desalination of the National Center for Mariculture site in Israel by using membrane distillation.
Daniela Martin: What does the grant you received entail?
Xianzheng Ma: The new grant is for the further development of the technologies, mainly focusing on enhancing the entrepreneurial side. It is a grant mainly for the research towards commercialisation, based on the academic outcomes.
Daniela Martin: How did Project Ô play a role in making this spin-out possible?
Xianzheng Ma: I think Project Ô provided the research platform for testing this technology. Without the project, we would not have had this technology from the beginning. In addition, we believe that due to the structure and size of the project, the technology readiness level for our research has been improved. Finally, because Project Ô is an H2020 project, we believe with this kind of background it will be like an endorsement or a stamp of approval for potential early-stage investors to join us.
Daniela Martin: What is the main thing you’ve learned during Project Ô and the development of the technology?
Xianzheng Ma: Project Ô provided an opportunity for students like me to utilise our knowledge and the technology we have developed in real-life scenarios. The project provided opportunities both on the academic and research side, as well as on the industrial side, providing the best of both worlds. This is the type of opportunity that you will not usually get from other types of projects.
Daniela Martin: Does membrane distillation have wider applications than only water treatment?
Xianzheng Ma: Yes, I think there are several aspects where membrane technology can be implemented. For example, in the aspect of resource recovery or chemical processing or food or beverages, membrane technology can have a wider application.
Daniela Martin: What are your future plans?
Xianzheng Ma: I think through this process I found myself deeply in love with the process of membrane technology and water treatment in general. For me, I would like to see how far I can go with this project and this opportunity to see what kind of impact I will have on the technology of membrane distillation or water treatment technologies in general.