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SALT WATER TO FRESH DRINKING - BREAKTHROUGH IN FILTRATION CUTS DESALINATION COST
By Gillian Ward
Zero Energy Water is rolling out their new super-fine reverse osmosis membrane, just one atom of carbon thick, reducing the energy required to transform sea water into fresh drinking water by a whopping 66%. WaterToday caught up with the founder and company leader Ray Williamson at a tech industry trade show to find out more.
Zero Energy Water, with manufacturing plant headquartered in Toronto and laboratory division in Halifax, produces a graphene filter capable of increasing the efficiency of salt water processing facilities. Thousands of desalination plants sit in mothballs due to the high energy cost of operations. "Over half the cost of producing fresh water from sea water is the electrical bill", says Williamson. The new semi-permeable membrane is producing 1000 gallons of fresh water with 1 kilowatt hour of energy. That is one third of the energy drawn down for the former RO technology to produce the same amount of fresh water.
This cost saving could result in formerly decommissioned plants and equipment coming back online, helping to slake more than two billion thirsty human citizens of planet Earth. Williamson estimates there are as many as 20,000 desalination plants that could benefit from this new filtration membrane.
"The graphene technology not only allows for feasible production of fresh water for human consumption, it now makes economic sense to process sea water for industrial applications, like agriculture. Often the desalination plants are used only in emergencies, for public drinking water, and most of them are heavily subsidized by local governments and aid organizations as needed. The savings in energy from swapping out the RO membrane could see a steady flow of fresh drinking water along with a positive impact on GDP.
Dr. Ian Flint is the operational partner that has been working on the graphene filter in Canada for the past eight years. As of now, the company is engaged in boutique production for selected applications, waiting for the necessary government approvals and certifications before spooling up production for the larger market.
Many industrial applications employ reverse osmosis water filtration, where raw water is pushed through a semi-permeable membrane, trapping contaminants and flushing them away. Maple syrup, orange juice concentrate, wastewater treatment and oil sands applications often employ some form of reverse osmosis (RO) technology, and all could benefit from the improved efficiency of the Zero Energy filter. Most RO applications will be able to swap their filter membrane for the graphene filter and begin saving energy immediately, with very little change or disruption to the plant and process otherwise. For more information, check out zeroenergywater.com.
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