One of the growing problems facing mankind in the 21st century is the ability of the earth to sustain an ever growing population. Natural resources such as food and water supplies are being depleted or damaged by the activities of man in ways that impact all of humanity, particularly those that live in poor regions of the world.
Clean drinking water is essential for all life to exist on this planet. In addition, water is necessary to grow crops and sustain food production. Unfortunately our fresh water resources have not been protected in ways that will ensure that future generations will have adequate fresh water supplies. Fresh water has been overused, aquifers have been depleted, and pollution has spoiled water quality in many regions of the world. Fresh water supplies were treated as a never ending resource; unfortunately, this is not reality, and water shortages as well as the spread of disease and sickness through contaminated water is a major problem of this century. Technical advances are needed to provide adequate water supplies to sustain life in the future. These advances will include techniques to clean polluted water as well as techniques to utilize the earth’s available water in ways that have heretofore been impossible.
According to the NASA Earth Observatory website www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov, 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, with 96.5 percent being in the global oceans. Unfortunately, ocean water is not drinkable in its present form. This has been a monumental difficulty throughout humanity, and the frustration of having plentiful, albeit non-drinkable, water is described well in the famous line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - “Water, water, everywhere Nor any drop to drink”.
There are techniques to extract fresh water from salt water, one of the oldest being boiling or distillation. As salt water is boiled, the steam leaving the salt water is condensed, the steam being essentially fresh water. This technique was known by mariners hundreds of years ago, and still manifests itself in commercial flash distillation plants. Distillation is an energy intensive process due to the heat required. This makes distillation not only expensive, but also contributes to the growing problem of carbon dioxide emissions, as well as other pollutants, and their subsequent impact on the environment. Reverse Osmosis is a fairly recent technique that has gained widespread attention as an alternative to distillation. This process is also energy intensive due to the pressures needed to move water through the reverse osmosis membrane, although there continue to be improvements.
There have been other attempts to desalinate ocean water including freezing and capacitive deionization. At this point in time, Reverse Osmosis is a very encouraging, albeit still energy intensive, process. Our process does not use any of the known desalination processes. We instead use low power electrostatics in combination with specific fluid flow conditions to create potable water. We have proven our process, and our proof of concept benchtop setup produces pure drinking water from sea water.
We are currently engaged in research and development to move our lab based technology into a small, low power, portable system that can be used to meet the needs of a family or small group of people for disaster relief or permanent applications.
We are also using our core technology to remove moisture from an incoming airstream to reduce the power requirements of building air conditioners.
Our vision is to solve the clean water needs of current and future generations whose lives will depend on reliable and clean water sources. While no one knows for certain if we will achieve this vision, we believe that our work and efforts will contribute to this goal in ways that we cannot foresee today.