"Clean" electricity and drinking water from the same appliance

Posted on July 10, 2019

Researchers in Saudi Arabia have developed a device that, by using solar energy, simultaneously allows the desalination of seawater (and water purification in general to make it drinkable and suitable for irrigation) and the production of "clean" electricity.

The achievement can help in the future to tackle the deficiency of both "green" electricity and clean water in arid and semi-arid areas.
The researchers, headed by Peng Wang, King of Abdullah University of Science and Technology, who published the publication in Nature Communications, combined two existing technologies, photovoltaic and multi-stage membrane filtration. A three-stage filtering unit is attached to the back of a photovoltaic panel.
The sloping heat produced by the photovoltaic (usually the photovoltaics convert to only 10% to 20% of the solar energy and the rest to the environment) is used for the first time in order to evaporate the seawater or dirty water, which in turn transported through the membranes, cleaned and finally re-condensed as clean water.
The device maintains the efficiency of a commercial photovoltaic, while also providing clean water with greater efficiency than existing devices. The integration of the two processes into a single device improves the energy efficiency of both.
The ever-increasing demand for both clean energy and clean water is one of the key challenges of sustainable development. Generation of electricity often requires large amounts of water, while water purification requires electricity to function.
If this technology is applied on a large scale, it could convert power plants from consumers to potable water producers, according to the researchers. In addition, it could make a significant contribution to the use of non-potable water and the conversion of drinking to areas with a lot of sunshine and water scarcity.
Researchers estimate that new technology, which could be applied either in the home yard or in a large unit, will be available in the market in about five years and is capable of providing up to 10% of global water consumption. At 780 million, the world's people who have no easy access to clean drinking water are counted.

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