Processing Magazine

Australian researchers develop energy-saving desalination method

June 26, 2014
<photocredit>The pilot-scale FDFO desalination plant being installed. Picture supplied by the research team.</photocredit>

Desalination continues to be of interest to researchers because it provides excellent opportunities for securing a more reliable freshwater supply. However, its intense energy consumption and cost prevent the desalination market from reaching its full potential. A team of researchers at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), claim they have developed a method that could reduce energy consumption by up to 80 percent, thus making desalination more affordable and eco-friendly.

As Australia is getting ready for possible drought and fires during the El Nino season expected soon, scientists at the UTS Centre for Technology in Water and Wastewater (CTWW) have come up with an innovative method called Fertilizer Drawn Forward Osmosis (FDFO) that could help expand the reach of desalination.

The process involves the use of chemicals to withdraw saline from water via osmosis by employing soluble fertilizer on the opposite side of a membrane filter. The resulting water is desalinated enough to be used for irrigation, UTS said.

Dr. Hokyong Shon, leader of the research, explained that the method could be very useful for a country that uses a significant proportion of its water reserves for irrigation. If irrigation needs can be met in this way, the strain on traditional freshwater sources would be relieved and that would free up capacity for other needs. Researchers hope that FDFO could be adapted to serve the needs of other areas as well.