Honorary Professorship for desalination expert

September 5, 2011

Murdoch University has awarded an Honorary Professorship to David Furukawa, Chief Scientific Officer for the National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia.

Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Higgott made the surprise announcement at the official opening of the Centre’s new $5 million Desal Discovery Centre and Rockingham Desal Research Facility on Sunday. It is only the third such award by the university.

NCEDA CEO Neil Palmer welcomed the recognition for the Centre’s leading desalination expert and thanked Murdoch University, which is the Administrating Office of the Centre.

Mr Palmer said Professor David Furukawa well deserved the honour for his outstanding contribution to desalination research and his work to create a new Australian Desalination Research Roadmap which will guide the direction of the nation’s desalination research and development for the next five years.

The Honorary Murdoch Professor is known as one of the pioneers of desalination, whose contribution to the global water industry continues to be far-reaching and substantial.

Trained as a chemical engineer, he has more than 40 years of desalination technology expertise in both public and private sectors and has had an important and enduring influence on the global water industry.

Professor Furukawa holds many positions, including Chairman of the Research Advisory Board, National Water Research Institute; Vice-moderator of the Research Advisory Council, Middle East Desalination Research Centre; and he is in the International Desalination Association Hall of Fame as Past-President and Director for 20 years. He has also been a leading light of the American Desalting Association, and a life member of the American Water Works Association.

Patented in the field, Professor Furukawa’s company, Separation Consultants, Inc., provides technical, management and strategic business consultancy.

Professor Furukawa has played a pivotal role in the development of groundbreaking technologies, including reverse osmosis purification units, ultrafiltration membranes, and nanofiltration membranes. This has had significant beneficial impacts in the global oil and gas industry, dairy and food production, pharmaceuticals, the military and municipal water supply.

He helped develop the first reverse osmosis water purification unit for the US army in the 1960s to provide potable drinking water for battalions of soldiers on the move. This core invention is still in use today, providing fresh water to troops in combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Professor Furukawa was also a pioneer in the development of ultrafiltration membranes, now used extensively by the global water industry to purify water. He developed a solution using nanofiltration to remove sulphates from seawater – an  invention which made drilling oil fields in the North Sea commercially viable and is still in widespread use today.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the reverse osmosis and nanofiltration elements company Filmtec from five people to a very large multinational corporation and was Vice President when it was acquired by Dow.

Professor Furukawa helped lay the groundwork for the establishment of the Middle East Desalination Research Centre to help countries there cooperatively solve water problems endemic to the region.

He helped create a self sustaining future and zero carbon footprint for the city of Masdar, Abu Dhabi, using nanofiltration membranes to fractionate briny groundwater to facilitate capture of pure salts for later sale. And he helped the states of California and Hawaii with its desal projects and worked to develop a National Desalination and Water Purification Roadmap. His work on desal for the Canary Islands influenced the growth of the industry around the Mediterranean.

For daily news and information on NCEDA developments, Australian desalination and the IDA World Congress visit: www.desalination.edu.au

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