Environment

Desolenator churns out clean drinking water using solar power

Desolenator churns out clean d...
The Desolenator produces clean drinking water using sunlight
The Desolenator produces clean drinking water using sunlight
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The Desolenator produces clean drinking water using sunlight
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The Desolenator produces clean drinking water using sunlight
Complete with all terrain wheels for mobility, the team says that the Desolenator is built to last 20 years
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Complete with all terrain wheels for mobility, the team says that the Desolenator is built to last 20 years

Desalination may one day prove the savior for regions of the world where clean drinking water is scarce, but current technology dictates that this process is often expensive and energy-intensive. The team behind the Desolenator has high hopes of delivering water security to those in need, with a mobile desalinator that runs purely on energy from the sun.

At a time when the planet’s population is set to grow substantially and rising global temperatures are adding further uncertainty to the supply of fresh water, considerable effort is going into advancing desalination technology and making it cheaper and more accessible.

In 2010, IBM commenced work on a solar-powered desalination plant to bring fresh water to the Saudi desert, while later in that same year MIT revealed designs for a portable system powered by photovoltaic panels. Only yesterday we wrote about the Odyssée desalinator, an all-in-one system that uses wave-power to produce clean drinking water on the spot.

Now the developers of the Desolenator are promising the lowest cost per liter compared to any other available system of its scale. Their solution takes the form of a mobile, flat-screen television-sized unit with a top, slanted surface covered by an array on photovoltaic panels. Complete with all terrain wheels for mobility, the team says that the Desolenator is built to last 20 years.

The device is claimed to be more dependable than traditional desalination systems that rely on reverse osmosis, a technique where specialized membranes are used to filter out undesired particles. Part of this is because it has no moving parts, but more importantly, it is entirely energy independent.

Speaking to BBC Radio last week, Desolenator founder and CEO William Janssen detailed how the system works. While photovoltaic panels are used to convert sunlight into electricity, his design focuses a little more on the heat that they provide instead. "What we did is we actually insulated the solar panel, we put double glazing on the top and we put foam all around, so the solar panel would get even hotter," said Janssen.

After bumping up the temperature of the panels, a thin film of water is then run across its surface to soak up the heat. This heated water is then directed to a separate vessel where the electricity that is generated by the system is used to bring it to boiling point with a spiral heater. This creates vapor which is collected and distilled into clean water. Janssen says in its current form, the system can provide around 15 L (3.96 gal) of water per day.

Janssen’s team has a functioning prototype and is now looking to raise US$150,000 on Indiegogo. Funds will be directed toward building more units for testing, fine-tuning the final design and ultimately mass production. Early pledges of $450 are available and will have a Desolenator sent your way in October 2015 if the campaign runs as planned.

Source: Desolenator

11 comments
analogue girl
and what do they do with the super heated concentrated salt solution left after the superheated water is evaporated?
David Rochlin
It is good that there is some effort to make systems not dependent upon high cost and maintenance, reverse osmosis filtration.
Freyr Gunnar
Does this require oil for its production?
Alex h20
@analogue girl the desolenator uses the heat from the brine through heat exchange. The output brine is low concentration and can be recycled through the system. Brine waste is a challenge, we are looking at halophyte crops amongst other solutions such as easier running back into the sea in a coastal context @Freyr fossil fuels are used in industry production yes, however there is an energy ROI. In future we hope that manufacturing will be powered by clean tech but it will take time
esar
Why use all that fancy expensive technology, what's wrong with a simple solar collector boiling the water and condensing the steam?
Slowburn
Using the electric components seams awfully expensive. I would either uses a conventional solar still or use a foil reflector and a vacuum inducing condenser. And if I was feeling really ambitious use a Sterling engine to generate a little mechanical energy while pulling the waste heat out of the condenser and brine. @ analogue girl Pour it into an open basin and let it continue to evaporate the water out and then pile the sold matter (Mostly salt) into piles. Adding a little salt to some clays makes the dried mud much stronger.
Martin Winlow
Next stop, Mars?
Keenan Lee
Analogue girl brought up a good point about the waste salt but most importantly is that they stated they run the water down across the panels. Brine water running down will eventually clog the system. It can't run constantly since it needs sunlight. So at night the system is stagnant. The brine unless flushed will build up residue. The system requires constant flushing to sustain brine operations. Corrosion will be a strong concern.
kmccune
I could live on 4 gals a day easily
Julie Myers
It is amazing to hear that this machine is able to produce so much clean water! It would be really great to look into this option to see if I could get one for my family. Then if we ever were to have problems with our electricity or plumbing systems, we could still have clean water for drinking and cooking. Thanks for sharing this!