Water For All
The Economist recently published a very good primer on water desalination. It contains some cautious prediction about future growth of thermal and membrane desalination plants, but all of that could change if Mohammed Rasool Qtaisha, a chemical engineering PhD student at the University Ottawa, has his way. He founded Water for All with the goal of turning seawater into drinking water on a large scale, and it seems like he has a breakthrough.
We can't be 100% sure yet because his technology is secret and patent-pending, but he claims that his new membrane technology is 600 to 700% more efficient than what is currently on the market. "His prototype is able to run on solar panels and produce 50 kilograms of water per metre square of the membrane per hour [...] current technology would produce about seven to eight kilograms per metre per hour."One reason why he doesn't reveal too much about his invention yet:
But Mr. Qtaishat is up against stiff competition. General Electric has a large water purification division looking into similar technology and the U.S.-based National Science Foundation recently announced a $2.5-million grant to the University of Michigan to assemble a crack team of experts to study the same thing.
Desalination Just One of Many Solutions
Of course, we must use our current water resources much better, especially in parts of the world where it is abundant (that's where there's the most waste). But in other parts of the world, even with extreme conservation and efficiency measures, drinking water is still scarce and an extended drought could turn a difficult situation into a humanitarian crisis, especially now with global warming.
Large-scale water desalination, especially if powered by clean energy, could make life much better for millions of people. Best of luck to Mohammed Rasool Qtaisha and all the others working on this hard problem.
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