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Green Economy pacific ocean from sayulita, nayarit, mexico

Published on February 22nd, 2009 | by Timothy B. Hurst

18

Engineered Osmosis: Revolutionizing Saltwater Desalination

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February 22nd, 2009 by  

pacific ocean from sayulita, nayarit, mexico

A Cambridge, Massachusetts-based desalination start up has closed on a $10 million round of funding to develop its proprietary technology to produce clean, potable water from salt water using one tenth the amount of energy used in traditional desalination plants.

As we reported last month, Yale researchers Rob McGinnis and Dr. Menachem Elimelech have developed a proprietary desalination system called Engineered Osmosis that they say could produce clean drinking water from seawater or other wastewater at half the current cost. Now that their new company— Oasys Water—has secured Series A funding, it can proceed with the development of its potentially revolutionary commercial desalination platform.

Company officials claim the Engineered Osmosis (EO) process can produce drinking water at less than half the cost of current desalination methods by eliminating the need the for high-pressures used in modern Reverse Osmosis systems, thereby cutting electricity and fuel demands by more than 90%.

The result is a reduction in the economics of seawater desalination that will ultimately bring the cost of producing water from the ocean below the cost of conventional surface water, such as that used in California’s aquaduct system.

“Water shortages are no longer a ‘far-away’ problem,” said Aaron Mandell, President and CEO of Oasys, in a statement. Mendell noted that the ongoing drought in California, coupled with the fact water production is already the single largest use of California’s electrical grid, makes such developments so timely.

Company officials also see the tremendous potential EO can have in parts of the developing world, where severe water shortages are on the rise, resulting in large-scale political and social conflict. According to the World Health Organization, 2.4 billion of the world’s 6.8 billion people now live in highly water-stressed areas.

“Oasys has developed a truly disruptive technology to address the growing global water crisis,” said Jim Matheson of Flagship Ventures, one of the projects financiers.

As with so many of the promising clean technologies, one only hopes that the excessive demand in global markets does not prevent Engineered Osmosis and other low-energy intensive desalination technologies from getting where they could have the greatest impact.

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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.



  • http://www.aquasafecanada.com/ AquasafeSystems

    I understand the premise for desalinization, and reverse osmosis, but how does engineered osmosis work? By eliminating the high pressure needed for the reverse osmosis process, how will the water be forced through the membrane?

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  • Celia

    We need to do something soon and let’s not worry about what to do with the waste (brine effluent) -

    What do we do with nuclear waste and isn’t that more of a dangerous pollutant? Unfortunately we need nuclear power but clean water is just as necessary.

  • Celia

    We need to do something soon and let’s not worry about what to do with the waste (brine effluent) -

    What do we do with nuclear waste and isn’t that more of a dangerous pollutant? Unfortunately we need nuclear power but clean water is just as necessary.

  • louise Jay

    I am sick and tired of the constant complaints about no water in Southern California with that big ocean out there just waiting for the tide to rise from the glacier melts, and some politicians want to put pipelines from north to south, which obviously will cost more that the new desalinization techs. and do not promise to last any better than the current flows from the north. Why don’t some companies form to meet this need? Obviously it is guarenteed profitable. $$ is waiting o the sidelines. Lets get on with it!!!!! Louise

  • louise Jay

    I am sick and tired of the constant complaints about no water in Southern California with that big ocean out there just waiting for the tide to rise from the glacier melts, and some politicians want to put pipelines from north to south, which obviously will cost more that the new desalinization techs. and do not promise to last any better than the current flows from the north. Why don’t some companies form to meet this need? Obviously it is guarenteed profitable. $$ is waiting o the sidelines. Lets get on with it!!!!! Louise

  • http://mphelan.blogspot.com Matthew Phelan

    Let me field this one for Paul:

    The main “pollutant” is the warm, heavily salted water that remains once a bunch of drinkable water has been removed. It’s what’s typically called “brine effluent.”

    Too much of it dumped in one place can mess with the delicate ecology for marine life and as such needs to be dispersed or diluted by various mechanisms.

    There’s a whole bunch of methods for doing this. I wish I could speak to “how much desal companies care about this issue” vs. “how much is lip service.”

    Example:

    http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=JHEND8000134000001000116000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes

  • http://mphelan.blogspot.com Matthew Phelan

    Let me field this one for Paul:

    The main “pollutant” is the warm, heavily salted water that remains once a bunch of drinkable water has been removed. It’s what’s typically called “brine effluent.”

    Too much of it dumped in one place can mess with the delicate ecology for marine life and as such needs to be dispersed or diluted by various mechanisms.

    There’s a whole bunch of methods for doing this. I wish I could speak to “how much desal companies care about this issue” vs. “how much is lip service.”

    Example:

    http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=JHEND8000134000001000116000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes

    • Jan Williams

      Mr. Phelan: With all due respect: and your perfect solution is?

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    This is encouraging, but the question that remains is, where does the material that is filtered out of the water go? I seem to recall that being a source of pollution in earlier desalination efforts.

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    This is encouraging, but the question that remains is, where does the material that is filtered out of the water go? I seem to recall that being a source of pollution in earlier desalination efforts.

  • Ravi Soparkar

    Congratulations for developing low cost desalination technology. This will help to solve major problem of drinking water for many people in developing countries. I would be happy to receive more info and updates on this teschnology.

    Ravi Soparkar, Pune, India

    aquacontrol at in.com

  • Ravi Soparkar

    Congratulations for developing low cost desalination technology. This will help to solve major problem of drinking water for many people in developing countries. I would be happy to receive more info and updates on this teschnology.

    Ravi Soparkar, Pune, India

    aquacontrol at in.com

  • mridkash

    Solar Energy can also be used, on a wide scale, for water desalination.

    Either using sunlight generated electricity or heat.

  • mridkash

    Solar Energy can also be used, on a wide scale, for water desalination.

    Either using sunlight generated electricity or heat.

  • ike solem

    See Australia for some examples of solar-powered renewable energy/desalination systems:

    http://www.solardesalination.com.au/content/070607-SchneiderPressRelease2.html

    European engineers have constructed a number of portable solar water systems:

    http://www.enviro-friendly.com/zonnewater-desalination.shtml

    There are also some U.S. manufacturers:

    http://www.csrwire.com/News/7743.html

    “Completely portable and easily assembled on site, the Solar Cube is powered by sunlight and wind, and can provide up to 3,500 gallons of clean drinking water per day from polluted water or salt water — enough to sustain hundreds of families during a disaster. It can also provide enough energy for emergency disaster officials to power refrigeration for emergency medical supplies, keep a laptop on-line, or ensure that crisis communications equipment remains operational.”

  • ike solem

    See Australia for some examples of solar-powered renewable energy/desalination systems:

    http://www.solardesalination.com.au/content/070607-SchneiderPressRelease2.html

    European engineers have constructed a number of portable solar water systems:

    http://www.enviro-friendly.com/zonnewater-desalination.shtml

    There are also some U.S. manufacturers:

    http://www.csrwire.com/News/7743.html

    “Completely portable and easily assembled on site, the Solar Cube is powered by sunlight and wind, and can provide up to 3,500 gallons of clean drinking water per day from polluted water or salt water — enough to sustain hundreds of families during a disaster. It can also provide enough energy for emergency disaster officials to power refrigeration for emergency medical supplies, keep a laptop on-line, or ensure that crisis communications equipment remains operational.”

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