Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Chemists work to desalt the ocean for drinking water, 1 nanoliter at a time: Microscale method requires so little energy that it can run on a store-bought battery

A prototype "water chip" was developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Okeanos Technologies.

Credit: Courtesy Okeanos Technologies
A prototype "water chip" was developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Okeanos Technologies.

Credit: Courtesy Okeanos Technologies

Abstract:
By creating a small electrical field that removes salts from seawater, chemists at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Marburg in Germany have introduced a new method for the desalination of seawater that consumes less energy and is dramatically simpler than conventional techniques. The new method requires so little energy that it can run on a store-bought battery.

Chemists work to desalt the ocean for drinking water, 1 nanoliter at a time: Microscale method requires so little energy that it can run on a store-bought battery

Austin, TX | Posted on June 27th, 2013

The process evades the problems confronting current desalination methods by eliminating the need for a membrane and by separating salt from water at a microscale.

The technique, called electrochemically mediated seawater desalination, was described last week in the journal Angewandte Chemie. The research team was led by Richard Crooks of The University of Texas at Austin and Ulrich Tallarek of the University of Marburg. It's patent-pending and is in commercial development by startup company Okeanos Technologies.

"The availability of water for drinking and crop irrigation is one of the most basic requirements for maintaining and improving human health," said Crooks, the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences. "Seawater desalination is one way to address this need, but most current methods for desalinating water rely on expensive and easily contaminated membranes. The membrane-free method we've developed still needs to be refined and scaled up, but if we can succeed at that, then one day it might be possible to provide fresh water on a massive scale using a simple, even portable, system."

This new method holds particular promise for the water-stressed areas in which about a third of the planet's inhabitants live. Many of these regions have access to abundant seawater but not to the energy infrastructure or money necessary to desalt water using conventional technology. As a result, millions of deaths per year in these regions are attributed to water-related causes.

"People are dying because of a lack of freshwater," said Tony Frudakis, founder and CEO of Okeanos Technologies. "And they'll continue to do so until there is some kind of breakthrough, and that is what we are hoping our technology will represent."

To achieve desalination, the researchers apply a small voltage (3.0 volts) to a plastic chip filled with seawater. The chip contains a microchannel with two branches. At the junction of the channel an embedded electrode neutralizes some of the chloride ions in seawater to create an "ion depletion zone" that increases the local electric field compared with the rest of the channel. This change in the electric field is sufficient to redirect salts into one branch, allowing desalinated water to pass through the other branch.

"The neutralization reaction occurring at the electrode is key to removing the salts in seawater," said Kyle Knust, a graduate student in Crooks' lab and first author on the paper.

Like a troll at the foot of the bridge, the ion depletion zone prevents salt from passing through, resulting in the production of freshwater.

Thus far Crooks and his colleagues have achieved 25 percent desalination. Although drinking water requires 99 percent desalination, they are confident that goal can be achieved.

"This was a proof of principle," said Knust. "We've made comparable performance improvements while developing other applications based on the formation of an ion depletion zone. That suggests that 99 percent desalination is not beyond our reach."

The other major challenge is to scale up the process. Right now the microchannels, about the size of a human hair, produce about 40 nanoliters of desalted water per minute. To make this technique practical for individual or communal use, a device would have to produce liters of water per day. The authors are confident that this can be achieved as well.

If these engineering challenges are surmounted, they foresee a future in which the technology is deployed at different scales to meet different needs.

"You could build a disaster relief array or a municipal-scale unit," said Frudakis. "Okeanos has even contemplated building a small system that would look like a Coke machine and would operate in a standalone fashion to produce enough water for a small village."

The fundamental scientific breakthroughs that led to this advance were primarily supported by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy. Okeanos Technologies is funded by venture capital and grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The intellectual property is owned by The University of Texas at Austin through the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC). In the event of eventual profits, patent holders, including Crooks and Knust, will be paid according to the OTC's standard licensing agreement. Okeanos Technologies is also currently supporting Knust's stipend and tuition via a gift to UT.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Richard Crooks

512-475-8639

Copyright © University of Texas at Austin

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Desalination Microchannel Video:

Related News Press

News and information

Special UO microscope captures defects in nanotubes: University of Oregon chemists provide a detailed view of traps that disrupt energy flow, possibly pointing toward improved charge-carrying devices October 21st, 2014

Super stable garnet ceramics may be ideal for high-energy lithium batteries October 21st, 2014

Could I squeeze by you? Ames Laboratory scientists model molecular movement within narrow channels of mesoporous nanoparticles October 21st, 2014

Detecting Cancer Earlier is Goal of Rutgers-Developed Medical Imaging Technology: Rare earth nanocrystals and infrared light can reveal small cancerous tumors and cardiovascular lesions October 21st, 2014

Nitrogen Doped Graphene Characterized by Iranian, Russian, German Scientists October 21st, 2014

Chemistry

Could I squeeze by you? Ames Laboratory scientists model molecular movement within narrow channels of mesoporous nanoparticles October 21st, 2014

Non-Toxic Nanocatalysts Open New Window for Significant Decrease in Reaction Process October 19th, 2014

QD Vision Wins Prestigious Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency October 16th, 2014

Unique catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells synthesized in ordinary kitchen microwave oven October 14th, 2014

Videos/Movies

Ucore's McKenzie to Deliver Presentation to Rare Earths Conference in Singapore as Highlight of Fall 2014 Marketplace Schedule October 19th, 2014

Discoveries

Special UO microscope captures defects in nanotubes: University of Oregon chemists provide a detailed view of traps that disrupt energy flow, possibly pointing toward improved charge-carrying devices October 21st, 2014

Super stable garnet ceramics may be ideal for high-energy lithium batteries October 21st, 2014

Could I squeeze by you? Ames Laboratory scientists model molecular movement within narrow channels of mesoporous nanoparticles October 21st, 2014

Detecting Cancer Earlier is Goal of Rutgers-Developed Medical Imaging Technology: Rare earth nanocrystals and infrared light can reveal small cancerous tumors and cardiovascular lesions October 21st, 2014

Announcements

Special UO microscope captures defects in nanotubes: University of Oregon chemists provide a detailed view of traps that disrupt energy flow, possibly pointing toward improved charge-carrying devices October 21st, 2014

Super stable garnet ceramics may be ideal for high-energy lithium batteries October 21st, 2014

Could I squeeze by you? Ames Laboratory scientists model molecular movement within narrow channels of mesoporous nanoparticles October 21st, 2014

Detecting Cancer Earlier is Goal of Rutgers-Developed Medical Imaging Technology: Rare earth nanocrystals and infrared light can reveal small cancerous tumors and cardiovascular lesions October 21st, 2014

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals

Special UO microscope captures defects in nanotubes: University of Oregon chemists provide a detailed view of traps that disrupt energy flow, possibly pointing toward improved charge-carrying devices October 21st, 2014

Could I squeeze by you? Ames Laboratory scientists model molecular movement within narrow channels of mesoporous nanoparticles October 21st, 2014

Detecting Cancer Earlier is Goal of Rutgers-Developed Medical Imaging Technology: Rare earth nanocrystals and infrared light can reveal small cancerous tumors and cardiovascular lesions October 21st, 2014

Nitrogen Doped Graphene Characterized by Iranian, Russian, German Scientists October 21st, 2014

Patents/IP/Tech Transfer/Licensing

Nanodevices for clinical diagnostic with potential for the international market: The development is based on optical principles and provides precision and allows saving vital time for the patient October 15th, 2014

Aculon Receives Patent for Application of Enhanced Bonding Layers on Titanium October 9th, 2014

harmaEngine will join Nanobiotix’ pivotal trial for NBTXR3 in Soft Tissue Sarcoma to accelerate its development in Asia-Pacific: PharmaEngine to make milestone payment to Nanobiotix in October 2014 to recognize the value created October 8th, 2014

‘Small’ transformation yields big changes September 16th, 2014

Water

New Nanocomposites Help Elimination of Toxic Dyes October 15th, 2014

Fast, cheap nanomanufacturing: Arrays of tiny conical tips that eject ionized materials could fabricate nanoscale devices cheaply October 4th, 2014

Production of Filters for Separation of Water from Petroleum Products in Iran October 1st, 2014

Malvern Instruments & Aurora Water conference presentation illustrates value and cost-saving potential of on-line zeta potential in water treatment: 2014 RMSAWWA/RMWEA Joint Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA September 7th – 10th September 3rd, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE





  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE