Fresh water is a precious commodity. While two thirds of the Earth is covered by water, only 2.5% of it is drinkable or able to be used for irrigation purposes. That’s a problem in the arid countries like Abu Dhabi, but it is also becoming more of a problem in places like the American southwest. Desalinization may be the answer.
Of course, it is possible to desalinate ocean water, but it takes a lot of energy to do it. Manhat, a tech company based in Abu Dhabi, says it may have a partial solution. It has invented a floating system that can generate fresh water from the ocean without electricity. The device operates on solar energy to capture the water that evaporates on the surface of the ocean, condense it, and collect it in the form of fresh water. The ingenious system, which resembles a floating greenhouse, has the potential to transform how food and clean water are generated in the Arab Peninsula and other coastal regions across the world, according to DesignBoom.
When sunlight hits the surface of the ocean, it causes some of the water to evaporate. As the sun heats the floating structure, the water underneath it evaporates. Evaporation is one way of desalinating seawater, as all the impurities that make it salty are left behind. The angle of the collection cylinder prevents water droplets from evaporating back into the sea. When temperatures cool, the water distills and flows into a reservoir as fresh water.
Although this solar powered desalination process is already in use in many places around the world, the Abu Dhabi-based company wants to implement this solution on a larger scale. The startup plans to use its technology in floating farms, which would use its invention to provide fresh water for crop irrigation without the need for water transportation and associated emissions.
Also, unlike existing systems, the process will not produce brine, a condensate of salt and chemicals, which is harmful to marine flora and fauna. Finally, according to the company, the invention is less expensive than existing systems because it does not require heating or water compression.
A fuller explanation of how the Menhat floating water desalinization system works is presented in the somewhat fanciful video below. The company has not released any details about costs or technical capabilities of its system. The idea is intriguing, but we know the leap from concept to production can be daunting. When we know more, you’ll know more.
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