National Alliance for Water Innovation: Reimagining Desalination

National Alliance for Water Innovation: Reimagining Desalination


Today’s water system is not sustainable
for a number of reasons. We’re at a point where we’re beginning to have to treat
sources of water that are much more complicated that require more advanced
water treatment technologies. If we want to make desalination or widespread we have to significantly reduce the cost. The National Alliance for Water
Innovation, or NAWI, is a team of researchers founded by three national laboratories with 19 universities and partners from industry water utilities
and state agencies. Our vision is to create a national research coalition headquartered at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
with the goal of lowering the cost and energy of desalination and associated
water treatment. A team of this scale, pulling from water research talent from around the United States, has never really been accomplished before but by
pooling the resource of the US Department of Energy’s leading science
laboratories with leading universities water treatment facilities and with a
wide range of industry partners including EPRI, the Electric Power
Research Institute, we aim to identify the key barriers to lowering the cost
and energy of water treatment and then attack those barriers through a
coordinated campaign of applied research. Oak Ridge National Lab has been a leader
in separation science and technology from the very start. In my own particular
specialty, which will be applied to NAWI in precision separations, we’re going to
rely on molecular recognition to get specificity in the separation. We are
able to simply pluck like a needle from a haystack the salini aid or the borade
or whatever the contaminant is that we’re concerned about so we’d be able to
do that very efficiently at low cost and with minimal energy input. Berkeley Lab
has extensive expertise in material science, nanoscience, and characterization.
And what we’re doing in terms of trying to build a water-related program is
bring all these experts together and as the team addressed the materials
development challenges for efficient and sustainable water treatment in
particular inland brackish water treatment. NREL is exploring the
integration of variable renewable energy power with desalination systems.
NREL has partnered in this work with Colorado School of Mines to look at how
membrane systems operate under variable renewable energy scenarios. We’ve looked at scenarios both including on grid and distributed energy systems and have
found that desalination systems can operate without affecting membrane
integrity or produced water quality. This is a very unique facility it allows us to
go across scales from really small scale research of new technologies all the way
to demonstrate their potential commercialization. We do not have a water
shortage on this planet, we have a lot of water. The problem is that it’s
contaminated with salt and other constituents. I think in the future
we’re going to have a society and an environment where we have enormous
amounts of water we have been abundance of water as a result of desalination
technologies. We envision that this investment in 21st century technology will open up a range of new opportunities not just to lower the cost
and energy of water treatment but also to be able to reuse water locally.
Using it over and over again and reducing our reliance on freshwater
supplies. you

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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