News / Asia

Australian Researchers Aim for Greener Desalination

Trucks arrive at the water filling station of an aluminum smelting plant to get fresh water distilled from Gulf seawater in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (File Photo).
Trucks arrive at the water filling station of an aluminum smelting plant to get fresh water distilled from Gulf seawater in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (File Photo).

Related Articles

Phil Mercer

Researchers in Sydney are leading a new international effort to make desalination more environmentally friendly. Current techniques tend to use excessive amounts of energy or are heavily reliant on chemicals. The University of Technology in Sydney is working with teams from Singapore, Saudi Arabia and South Korea to improve the filtration process to make it more efficient and gentler on the environment.

Removing salt from water

Desalination is often seen as an expensive and energy-intensive way to remove salt from water. In Australia - the world’s driest inhabited continent where rainfall has become increasingly erratic - desalination plants treat seawater that can produce almost half of the supplies needed by the major cities.

“There is a significant increase in the trend for the desalination market," explained
Professor Vigi Vigneswaran from the University of Technology in Sydney. He says the science has growing international value.

"Whether we like it or not, with the global warming problems, the desalination will become a very important technology - one of the important technologies - other than the water reuse and storm water harvesting," Vigneswaran said.

New techniques

One of the projects that researchers in Sydney are pursuing is improving the membranes used in pre-treatment systems in desalination plants.

These thin films often become clogged, reducing their efficiency and increasing the amount of energy used to take the salt out of seawater.

The team in Sydney is developing new biological filters that do not become so congested and will not need chemicals that absorb contaminants.

Researcher Christian Kazner says more effective filtration will cut energy usage.

“Membranes are very sensitive to everything which is contained in the water," noted Kazner. "It will be stopped by the membrane and grow on the surface of the membrane, whether it is salts, you have scaling, it is blocked. Or whether it is organic contaminants they really collect on the surface and if you have microbes they can grow on that organic material. As much as you remove those contaminants before you filter it you improve the performance of the membrane, you reduce the energy demand and finally you can extend the lifetime of the membrane.”

Forward osmosis

While conventional desalination systems rely on a process called reverse osmosis that uses pressure to force water through membranes, work is also being done on an alternative process. Forward osmosis needs far less energy and allows water to effectively be sucked through the filters.

Scientists in Sydney believe this method could reduce energy consumption in the desalination process by up to 90 percent.

Other projects being developed include mobile salt-removal systems for remote Aboriginal communities where supplies from groundwater wells are contaminated by high concentrations of saline and nitrates.

The aim is to export ideas and innovation overseas, especially smaller desalination units for use in developing countries, where safe and sustainable water supplies remain a distant dream for many.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid