New Desalination Process is Potentially Cheaper

It’s difficult to find a lot of good news on some days, but I try to look for the most relevant developments of it. The access to clean drinking water is set to become a bigger problem than it is now, and that’s with the ocean being about a third of the Earth. An efficient desalination process is needed to make use of the immense water of the ocean, especially when freshwater is roughly 3 percent of water in the world.

Engineers at the University of Illinois have taken a step forward in developing a saltwater desalination process that is potentially cheaper than reverse osmosis and borrows from battery technology. In their study, the researchers are focusing on new materials that could make desalination of brackish waters economically desirable and energy efficient.

The need for practical desalinization technology is rising in the context of global climate change. Coastal regions, where the rise of seawater could encroach upon and contaminate groundwater aquifers, present just one area of concern. As demand for diminishing clean water sources increases, the need for desalination of lower-salinity brackish water from inland and industrial sources will increase, the researchers said.

Illinois mechanical science and engineering professor Kyle Smith and his co-authors have published a study demonstrating the viability of this batterylike technology in the journal Electrochimica Acta.

In a previous study, Smith and his co-authors used theoretical modeling to show that technology used in sodium-ion batteries may efficiently desalinate seawater. Their theory states that by using electrodes that contain sodium and chloride ions, salt is drawn out and held in a chamber separate from the purified water.