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Hydrology Student Invents Solar Powered Mass Desalination System


Worldwide terminus lakes could benefit from a new system to desalinate water, using a low-cost solar pond and patented membrane distillation system powered by renewable energy.

These lakes see an increase in salinity and decline in water levels from human and natural processes.

Francisco Suarez, a doctoral student in hydrological sciences, is developing an artificial salt-gradient stratification process in which the solar heat is trapped at the bottom of the solar pond using the collected energy to power the membrane distillation system.

The hot salt water in the lower zone of the pond can reach high temperatures and can be used for heating, thermal desalination or for other thermal applications.

The model results shown that the temperature at the bottom of the solar pond increased from 68 to 126 degrees Fahrenheit in a period of two weeks, the solar pond remaining stable even though the insulating layer was eroded.

The process was experimented at a small-scale in the lab, where dissolved solids and precise fiber-optic temperature sensing were used to track the process as it desalinated the water. The next step is to build a pilot-project, demonstration-scale, low temperature desalination system in an open space.

The cost of running this system is not worth considering, because it will use renewable energy from the sun to power most of the it, using very little electricity.

A big advantage of using this system are that because renewable energy will be used, the system will have low maintenance and the process will use the salts from the lake.

This new technology could be used for water systems everywhere, but areas with good solar capabilities and adequate freshwater flows would be preferred.

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  1. Desalination plants. Gee, on one level I understand the necessity for without water we would not survive, however, the mass production that is in play now, leaves me with other concerns for our earth and ultimately survival. Small and local is best.

  2. Interesting and quite amazing science. I am forever intrigued at how individuals can identify and build on such concepts. I am envious of the talent and thankful that people with such insight exist for the betterment of the worlds energy and lifestyle.


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