Environment

The Odyssée desalinator: Using the power of the ocean to cleanse its own salty waters

The Odyssée desalinator: Using...
The Odyssée system uses wave power to churn out clean drinking water
The Odyssée system uses wave power to churn out clean drinking water
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The design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump which is attached to buoy that floats on surface of the water
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The design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump which is attached to buoy that floats on surface of the water
The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design
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The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design
Connected to the motor is a water pump which combines with a reverse osmosis system
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Connected to the motor is a water pump which combines with a reverse osmosis system
The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design
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The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design
The Odyssée system uses wave power to churn out clean drinking water
5/8
The Odyssée system uses wave power to churn out clean drinking water
The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 L (264 gal) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design
6/8
The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 L (264 gal) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design
The design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump which is attached to buoy that floats on surface of the water
7/8
The design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump which is attached to buoy that floats on surface of the water
The design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump which is attached to buoy that floats on surface of the water
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The design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump which is attached to buoy that floats on surface of the water

Watching on as the waves crashed against the cliffs of South Corsica, France, mechanical engineer Dragan Tutić knew some were already drawing on power from the ocean to generate electricity. But a possible use for all that motion in the ocean that had been largely unexplored, as far as he knew, was turning its salty seawater into the fresh, drinkable variety on the spot. In the following two and a half years, Tutić and his team designed and tested a prototype for a wave-powered desalinator, and now hold hopes of deploying the system in regions where water scarcity threatens the survival of coastal communities.

"How is it possible that even today we basically don’t use this infinite reservoir?" Tutić asks, recalling the moment that the idea for a wave-powered desalinator first came to him. "We should just take the resource and the energy to transform it at the same place. With the colliding of different concepts I’ve seen previously, I realized it was possible."

Around one month later, Tutić teamed up with eight of his fellow students at Sherbrooke University in Quebec, Canada, and got to work on making his vision a reality. Their design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump attached to buoy that floats on the surface of the water. As ocean swells move the buoy up and down, it kicks the pump into action. This builds up pressure and drives oil through a hydraulic motor, which in turns converts the linear motion into rotary motion.

Connected to the motor is a water pump that combines with a reverse osmosis system, a water purification method that uses membranes to separate water molecules from salt ions, bacteria and other unwanted particles. Using torque from the hydraulic motor, the desalinated water is then pumped back to shore though a small tube.

The design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump which is attached to buoy that floats on surface of the water
The design for the Odyssée wave-powered desalinator involves a hydraulic cylinder pump which is attached to buoy that floats on surface of the water

"The key thing is that it is an all-in-one-solution," says Tutić, describing what makes his system unique. "It’s the power plant and the desalination plant at the same place. Furthermore, its simplicity makes it less expensive than similar technologies."

Systems that use wave power to desalinate ocean water have been floated in different parts of the world before. In 2010, a company was given the nod to build an 18-pump wave power generation facility in the Gulf of Mexico that would feed water to and power land-based desalination plants. Off the coast of Western Australia a similar system called CETO became operational earlier this year.

Though the Odyssée system is rather small in comparison, Tutić says if more output is needed then the number of units could easily be increased. The first prototype was intended to produce 10,000 L (2641 gal) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design.

"We never had the chance to do sea installations or operations before our tests at the Magellan Islands," says Tutić. "It was at that moment we realized how much more complex the system was than we had expected. This is the critical point we want to improve for our next version. We want to make it extremely easy to install with minimum equipment."

These logistical issues proved problematic when the team first took their system to the ocean in September. The strength of the currents meant that it had to abandon the main anchor and instead use a lighter version. Although the backup anchor was heavy enough for them to test the system’s energy harvesting capacity, it was too light to conduct the desalination process.

The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design
The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design

"We installed it and the machine pumped pressure up to the limit of the anchor," explains Tutić. "We capped at about 30 percent away from the necessary pressure, but it was such a relief to see that the buoy was indeed sending the power to the prototype as we hoped it would."

With the knowledge acquired throughout two years of research, development and testing, Tutić’s team is now knuckling down on the next generation Odyssée wave power desalinator. Part of this involves trying to raise CAD$10,000 (US$8,600) on Kickstarter to develop a more accessible, affordable and efficient system.

The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design
The first prototype was intended to produce 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water per day, but the size of the system and the equipment needed to install it has steered the team toward a more compact and portable design

The second prototype will be designed to produce 3,500 L (925 gal) of water per day and if all goes as planned, will use a simplified energy conversion system with less components. The team hopes to develop a one-piece system for better mobility and to reduce its overall size and weight.

While it is still very early days for the Odyssée wave power desalinator, Tutić and his co-founder Renaud Lafortune do hold high hopes for its ability to deliver clean drinking water to regions in need. Potential areas for deployment include South Africa, Madagascar, Australia and smaller islands susceptible to the impacts of climate change.

"We would like to start collaborating with a community or population right away," says Tutić. "To make them involved in the development so it does fulfill their needs as they would like."

You can check out the pitch video below and head over to the Kickstarter campaign if you’d like to get behind the project.

Source: Project Odyssée

13 comments
zevulon
wave power for driving anything but a direct mechanical output ( like liquid robotics wave glider) is just stupid. natural ocean waves are not tides, they are not currents, they are oscillations of the surface of the ocean. they are horrible for providing any substantial amount of energy for coversion to electrochemical, salt-gradients, or other outputs. dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. every ocean wave project has failed. darpa's micro wave energy project is probably dead already. dumb.
Freyr Gunnar
> Wave power for driving anything but a direct mechanical output ( like liquid robotics wave glider) is just stupid … but it makes for sexy articles, which is why the media keep producing them day in day out… and the general public demonstrates against nuclear power because it's made to think that there are much safer and simpler "solutions" like wind, solar, or wave. Sigh.
HighTechreader
Zevulon, clearly you have not been following tech news very closely. Looking below this very article you can see that there are many projects that are producing real power now. It will probably never be something that powers the whole world, but will reduce the need for fossil fuel supplies. I'm in favor of anything that is cost effective in the long term, and does not pollute.
Reno
Hey Zevulon, I have looked at the robot that you talked about, this is pretty nice ! First of all this prototype is not to produce energy... As you probably don't know there is WAY MORE power in ocean waves compared to tides and it is more dense than solar or wind. This is a great challenge because the waves can change period and amplitude at the same time. But like any new technology, it takes time to commercialize. The biggest problem for renewable energies is that they are difficult to store it. Coal or hydro is easy, you adjust power directly in function of demand. This is why this principle is interesting because it is producing water which is easy to store in natural or artificial reservoirs. Finally, it is not because other projects have fail that we need to stop (look at other tech). It failed because they tried to go big quickly and it cost a lot of money.
David Bell
"will use a simplified energy conversion system with less components" That's FEWER, damn it! Pedantic pet peeve...
VirtualGathis
This part of the process has me scratching my head: "This builds up pressure and drives oil through a hydraulic motor, which in turns converts the linear motion into rotary motion. Connected to the motor is a water pump that combines with a reverse osmosis system..." Essentially what this says is that they use a linear pump to drive a hydraulic motor that drives a rotary pump that pressurizes a reverse osmosis system. If this were electricity that would be like building a generator that uses the gasoline motor to spin a generator head that runs a DC motor to spin an AC generator head. In this machine that means they are adding an additional 60%+ waste of system energy to the pumping process. Using the first pump to directly pressurize the reverse osmosis system sounds like a vastly better approach. If they lack the engineering to build the linear pump to accommodate the pressure the osmosis system needs then they should recruit/hire someone who can rather than overly complicate the system. So I'm curious if there is a valid reason for adding an inefficient hydraulic motor to the process.
Pat O'Leary
Lol! This "new" technique has been worked on at least as far back as the 1970s http://oceanenergysys.com/index.cfm?ref=70100
Nairda
Wars will be fought for fresh water in the future. Any forward motion on this class of project is welcome. Besides, if the hype is to be believed around ice cap meting resulting in water becoming less salty,. and so on, ... then perhaps mass acceptance of this form of water filtration may actually play a part in reversing the trend. Either way, to claim that this technology can not provide sufficient power is very narrow minded. The moon will continue to spin around the earth, so we will always have energy from moving water mass available. While any one system may show obvious power fluctuations, the output of hundreds combined would mostly remove this white noise.
dutchpete
I applaud you all for your imagination, plus your dedication to manifest your idea. I wish you every success, and whatever happens, please don't give up! This sort of work is far too important in a world where water shortage is going to be a major driver to unrest, wars, and suffering. Your idea of small, locally usable water desalinators is brilliant!
Slowburn
Which would cost more the repairs to keep if running or running a diesel for the same power and desalinated water?