Energy Efficient Process Discovered to Turn Seawater into Freshwater


Published by Nathan August on (here)

Seawater desalination with nothing more than a small electrical field? A simple new method of creating freshwater from seawater—that uses far less energy than conventional methods do—has just been developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Marburg in Germany.

A prototype “water chip” developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with a startup company. Photo Credit: University of Texas at Austin

The new method—electrochemically mediated seawater desalination—uses no membranes, is considerably simpler than conventional methods, and is so low-energy that it can be performed with the energy provided by store-bought batteries. Those are big improvements on all fronts—if the process can be adequately scaled up, it’s a potentially revolutionary development. Freshwater scarcity is expected to become a significant problem in many regions of the world in the coming decades, but as it stands now, saltwater desalination isn’t particularly economical … A cheaper, simpler method than those currently available would be of great use—one which could be used on larger scales than simple solar stills are.

The new method/technology is patent-pending and is currently in commercial development by startup company Okeanos Technologies.

“The availability of water for drinking and crop irrigation is one of the most basic requirements for maintaining and improving human health,” said Richard Crooks of The University of Texas at Austin. “Seawater desalination is one way to address this need, but most current methods for desalinating water rely on expensive and easily contaminated membranes. The membrane-free method we’ve developed still needs to be refined and scaled up, but if we can succeed at that, then one day it might be possible to provide fresh water on a massive scale using a simple, even portable, system.”

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Innovation in renewable-energy technologies is booming


New study shows that research investments and growing markets have fueled a huge rise in new patents

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- The number of patents issued for renewable-energy technologies has risen sharply over the last decade, according to new research from MIT and the Santa Fe Institute (SFI). The study shows that investments in research and development, as well as in the growth of markets for these products, have helped to spur this dramatic growth in innovation.

"We were quite surprised," says Jessika Trancik, an assistant professor of engineering systems at MIT and a co-author of the new report, published in the journal PLoS ONE. Trancik -- working with Luís Bettencourt of SFI and graduate student Jasleen Kaur from Indiana University -- created a database of energy-related patents issued in more than 100 countries between 1970 and 2009, using keyword searches of the patents themselves, rather than the classifications assigned by patent offices. In all, the team examined more than 73,000 patents issued for energy-related technologies.

This database "gives you a view into innovation activity -- who's doing it, and where," Trancik says. Further statistical analysis, she says, showed a clear correlation between this rise in patents and prior investments in R&D, along with growth in the markets for such renewable technologies.

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Researchers invented an efficient water from fog-harvesting system to provide drinking water to dry regions


A new fog-harvesting mesh made from stainless-steel filaments coated with a solution that ensures water droplets slide down more easily will soon be used to collect potable water in mild fog conditions. The fog-harvesting system is up to five times more efficient than previous systems and could produce up to 12 litres of drinking water per day.

Read more: via Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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