Currently 1.42 billion people live in areas with high water vulnerability - and that figure is expected to grow year on year due to climate change, pollution and increasing population around the globe. However researchers at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute are looking to challenge this threat, having recently developed a promising new process that could potentially alleviate the increasing levels of water scarcity.
Researchers at the University of South Australia have discovered a cost-effective technique, using cheap sustainable materials and sunlight, that has the potential to deliver safe and clean drinking water to millions.
“This technology really has the potential to provide a long-term clean water solution to people and communities who can’t afford other options, and these are the places such solutions are most needed.” Assoc Prof Xu says. “There are a lot of potential ways to adapt the same technology, so we are really at the beginning of a very exciting journey.”
The process works by deriving fresh water from seawater, brackish water, or contaminated water, through highly efficient solar evaporation. The photothermal structure sits on the surface of the water and and converts sunlight into heat, focusing energy on precise points of the surface in order to rapidly evaporate the liquid. As a result there is the potential to deliver enough daily fresh drinking water for a family of four from just one square metre of source water. An additional benefit is there is zero energy loss throughout this process, thanks to the innovative design of the structure.
- The structure is built from everyday materials that are low cost, sustainable and easily obtainable.
- The design of the photothermal structure prevents salt and other contaminants building up on the evaporator surface, making it incredibly easy to maintain.
- The system, developed by Assoc Prof Xu and his team at the University, could be deployed in situations where other desalination and purification systems would be financially and operationally unviable.