Process desalinates water, produces hydrogen and treats wastewater
There are many efforts to invent ways to make water desalination a low energy consumption process. Water purification usually requires a lot of energy as well, while utility companies need large amounts of water for energy production. Their goal is to find a low-energy-required treatment technology. Researchers from the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science may have discovered an answer.
Last year, a study published in Environmental Science & Technology incorporated desalination into microbial fuel cells, a new technology that can treat wastewater and produce electricity simultaneously. However, putting it into practical use proved to be challenging due to current fluctuation.
Six months after the initial hypothesis, a team of researchers from the University of Colorado Denver, lead by Zhiyong (Jason) Ren, discovered that this process can produce hydrogen gas, which can be stored and used for energy production, thus increasing the feasibility of the previously envisioned technology.
“Ships and their crews need energy generated on-site as well as fresh drinking water”, said Ren. “Thus, the Navy is very interested in both low energy desalination and renewable energy production.”
A recent study by Logan group at Penn State University also demonstrated similar findings in that the energy contained in hydrogen gas not only can offset the energy used for the desalination process but has surplus that can be used for downstream processing.
“This discovery is a milestone for our new research group”, said Ren. “We are very excited about our findings and will continue working to improve the technology.”
Next steps for Ren and his team will include using real wastewater to test the efficiency as well as optimizing the reactor configuration to improve system performance. For more information read the study published in Environmental Science & Technology named “Concurrent Desalination and Hydrogen Generation Using Microbial Electrolysis and Desalination Cells”.