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A breakthrough in low-energy desalination technology offers new hope for mitigation of climate change impacts.

As the world faces the challenges of decarbonization to slow the harmful impacts of climate change, minimizing energy consumption has become an increasingly important aspect of all human activity. Meanwhile, one of the major challenges of climate change and global population growth is maintaining access to clean water as conventional groundwater sources become more saline and the climate warms.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham working together with partners in the India H2O project have devised a new approach to help address these challenges. This novel technology, termed hybrid-batch reverse osmosis, can reduce the energy necessary to produce clean water by close to 80% compared to existing reverse osmosis technologies. 

 

Further benefits of this new approach arise from the capability of the system to remove almost all the contaminants such as salt or other compounds from water with high concentrations by making  operation at very high pressures feasible and the compact scale compared to other low-energy solutions.  This means that the salt or other contaminants can be removed without discharging large volumes of liquid waste to the environment as present desalination techniques do. The intrinsic non-continuous nature of the process makes it ideal for use with intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.The results, reported in the journal Desalination, suggest the new technology has enormous potential for deployment as a low-cost solution at medium scales particularly relevant to rural communities in arid regions whose livelihoods are under enormous threat from climate change. Demonstration of this new approach is now underway in the state of Gujarat, India where thousands of coastal villages are being decimated by increasing groundwater salinity and climate change.