Israeli, Jordanian Scientists Squeezing Costs from Desalination
If it succeeds, it will reduce the amount of brine volume in sea water to 33-50 percent of that currently generated by desalination.
The project is supported through grants provided to the team at the beginning of the year by the Middle East Desalination Research Center and the NATO Science for Peace project. A pilot unit is already under construction at Sde Boker, and is slated for completion by 2010. The team will also be working in Jordan towards the end of next year, or possibly at the beginning of 2011.
Ben-Gurion University’s technology transfer company, BGN Technologies, has established a new company ROTEC (Reverse Osmoses Technologies) to bring the technology to the commercial market. Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, has invested its own research and development funds in ROTEC to promote the technology as well.
Desalination uses reverse osmosis to force undrinkable water through a membrane, which then catches the salts and other particles suspended in the fluid.
The team’s efforts will focus on ways to reduce membrane fouling — the process by which the membrane becomes clogged with the salt and other particles as the water passes through. Because this happens quickly, the desalination process is costly; however, the team has found a way to periodically change the conditions in order to prevent the membrane from fouling, thus slowing down the process.
According to team leader Dr. Jack Gilron, scientist at BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Sde Boker, the new technology will reduce the amount of brine to be processed as well as the amount of chemical needed for the processing.
Ultimately, it will enable the researchers to produce 92 to 95 cubic meters per hour of potable water, as opposed to the 80 to 85 cubic meters now derived through the standard desalination process.
The business of water technology is becoming a booming industry throughout the world, as global warming begins to change weather patterns around the planet and potable water becomes more scarce. Israel, which has suffered four years of a crippling drought, has become a leader in this field.