Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers achieve major breakthrough with water desalination system

15.07.2009
UCLA Engineering's new M3 helps cut costs, time in producing clean water

Concern over access to clean water is no longer just an issue for the developing world, as California faces its worst drought in recorded history.

According to state's Department of Water Resources, supplies in major reservoirs and many groundwater basins are well below average. Court-ordered restrictions on water deliveries have reduced supplies from the two largest water systems, and an outdated statewide water system can't keep up with population growth.

With these critical issues looming large, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science are working hard to help alleviate the state's water deficit with their new mini-mobile-modular (M3) "smart" water desalination and filtration system.

In designing and constructing new desalination plants, creating and testing pilot facilities is one of the most expensive and time-consuming steps. Traditionally, small yet very expensive stationary pilot plants are constructed to determine the feasibility of using available water as a source for a large-scale desalination plant. The M3 system helps cut both costs and time.

"Our M3 water desalination system provides an all-in-one mobile testing plant that can be used to test almost any water source," said Alex Bartman, a graduate student on the M3 team who helped to design the sensor networks and data acquisition computer hardware in the system. "The advantages of this type of system are that it can cut costs, and because it is mobile, only one M3 system needs to be built to test multiple sources. Also, it will give an extensive amount of information that can be used to design the larger-scale desalination plant."

The M3 demonstrated its effectiveness in a recent field study in the San Joaquin Valley in which it desalted agricultural drainage water that was nearly saturated with calcium sulfate salts, accomplishing this with just one reverse osmosis (RO) stage.

"In this specific field study by our team, in the first part of the reverse osmosis process, 65 percent of the water that was fed in was recovered as drinking water, or potable water," said Yoram Cohen, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and lead investigator on the team. "We can potentially go up to 95 percent recovery using an accelerated chemical demineralization process that was also developed here at UCLA. This first field study with the M3 was a major achievement and the first phase of our high-recovery RO process demonstration program."

Andi Rahardianto, a postdoctoral researcher on the team, said that the approach taken by the group is "a significant leap" from the standard practice in the industry of constructing different pilot plants, often from scratch, in order to evaluate and demonstrate the feasibility of water production from different source waters.

"We believe systems such as the M3 can help accelerate not only water technology development but also its adoption," he said.

In addition to its use as a pilot-scale testing unit, the M3, according to Bartman, could also be deployed to various locations and used to produce fresh water in emergency situations.

"The M3's 'smart' nature means it can autonomously adapt to almost any variation in source water, allowing the M3 system to operate in situations where traditional RO desalination systems would fail almost immediately," he said.

Though the system is compact enough to be transported anywhere in the back of a van, it can generate 6,000 gallons of drinking water per day from the sea or 8,000 to 9,000 gallons per day from brackish groundwater. By Cohen's estimate, that means producing enough drinking water daily for up to 6,000 to 12,000 people.

"The system measures in real-time water pH, temperature, turbidity and salinity," said Cohen, who is also the director of UCLA's Water Technology Research (WaTeR) Center, which is overseeing this project. "It can control a variety of process variables, including the precise measure of chemical additives to condition the water. All the valves are computer-controlled, so the system can adjust itself automatically. We can also see how much energy we're using, and in the software, we've also included various techniques for optimizing the system so that it can run with minimum energy consumption."

"The last time UCLA went into the field with its own newly built pilot system was in the '60s," Cohen said. "This new system is one-twentieth the size of what was built then, maybe even smaller, and can produce up to 30 percent more potable water. So to actually go back to the San Joaquin Valley with new advanced technology and be successful is quite an event."

Rahardianto said that the highly saline agricultural drainage wastewater in the San Joaquin Valley is one of the most difficult source waters to desalt.

"It has been a persistent issue for communities in the valley, one of California's most productive agricultural regions," he said. "While numerous attempts have been made to develop and test various desalting technologies since the 1960s, a practical, cost-effective solution has not yet been adopted, increasingly affecting the ability to sustain agricultural productivity in the region."

Cohen's team is working with water agencies and industries across the United States, as well as with the international community, and collaborates with research institutions such as Ben Gurion University in Israel, Victoria University in Australia and Tarragona University in Spain.

According to Stephen Gray, director of the Institute for Sustainability and Innovation at Victoria University, "the M3 system is a very significant improvement in desalination operations, allowing the membrane systems to effectively and quickly adapt to changes in water quality and to achieve high water recoveries. Such advances are of great importance to Australia and many other places in the world, where many communities are facing shortages in fresh water supplies and are becoming more reliant on saline water sources."

"We envision a future where many of these systems are deployed all around the world and their operation monitored from a central location," Bartman said. "The M3 could be used to rapidly test water sources so that desalination plants can be constructed to augment the diminishing fresh water supply. The system could also be used in the event of emergencies to provide a quick source for fresh drinking water where it is needed most."

"The work comes out of necessity, certainly for California, but there are also many places around the world that share our same challenges," Cohen said. "I feel we have an opportunity to make a real impact with our work. We're pointing out where advanced technology can make a difference. We're trying to find real solutions, and in this area, UCLA is certainly leading the way."

Creating the M3 was a unique multidisciplinary team project involving faculty and students from the chemical, electrical and civil engineering departments with expertise in control theory and optimization, process design/monitoring, computational fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and software development.

The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs, including an interdepartmental graduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to five multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing and nanoelectronics, all funded by federal and private agencies.

Wileen Wong Kromhout | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucla.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New data unearths pesticide peril in beehives
21.04.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht New rice fights off drought
04.04.2017 | RIKEN

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>