Major Breakthrough: Desalination Powered by Graphite and Solar Energy

By: | October 5th, 2014

IndustryTap has written extensively about desalination. With worldwide spending on desalination technology expected to hit $16.6 billion by 2016, there is plenty of research and development underway driven by the world’s growing need for fresh water and a plentiful supply of saltwater. The fate of humanity and all living beings and an avoidance of the collapse of civilization depend on a plentiful supply of freshwater.

Like all new technologies, the challenge for desalination is to find a version that is economically viable for mass markets.

Now, researchers at the University of Houston & MIT have developed a process whereby graphite is placed in a microwave oven for seven seconds during which it “expands like popcorn”, according to Hadi Ghasemi of the University of Houston. The resulting porous material (see image below) concentrate solar energy, creating hotspots in graphite. Saltwater from below seeps upward into the graphite, heats up quickly and evaporates. The result is the creation of steam, which is condensed, collected and stored in tanks.

One current issue to overcome is the clogging of the graphite sponge by salt left behind after evaporation, but researchers are confident this can be overcome.

The breakthrough includes reducing the need to concentrate sunlight 1,000 times for current desalination technology to concentrating sunlight just 10 times. This requires relatively cheaper lenses, making this new form of desalination more economical.

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David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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