Two major global issues – scarcity of clean, drinkable water and CO2 emissions through energy use are being tackled at the University of Western Australia.
Low-grade heat driven desalination plants provide solutions for water needs in remote and rural communities, remote mine sites (for drinking and mineral refining) and the water intensive process industry.
In many such instances, reverse osmosis systems cannot supply the desired freshwater owing to various factors such as extremely high salinities, presence of toxins from mine wastes, natural geological resources and radioactive deposits and lack of available electrical power.
These limitations do not apply to the multi-effect-distillation (MED) process since it is an established low-grade heat driven technology that can deal with any contaminants and salinity levels.
The Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence has developed a novel technology which boosts the efficiency of standard MED by 30 per cent and more in terms of freshwater yield with a standard coolant temperature of 20° Celsius. This is done by exploiting the unique nature of low-grade heat such as for instance supplied by a geothermal bore, or low grade heat rejection from process industry.
This first step towards commercialisation of the novel MED technology which is proposed in three phases: