Desalination is a difficult and expensive process even with advanced technology. GE now announced a breakthrough desalination.
The team of the GE Global Research Center in New York developed together with the US Department of Energy (DOE) a turbine that allows to freeze saltwater. A mixture of air, salt and water is put through a hyper-cooling loop that freezes the seawater and in that process separate salt and water. The result is clean water.
To develop this process the researchers used a 3D printed turbine in miniaturized form that was used to compress and stream the mixture of air, salt and water through the cooling process. This small turbine was produced by GE Global Research’s Additive Manufacturing Lab and GE Aviation’s additive manufacturing facility in Cincinnati, Ohio. A normal sized turbine is the size of several rail cars, cost a fortune to build and wouldn’t fit the research purpose.
“97.5% of the earth’s water supply is virtually inaccessible because water desalination is still too expensive and difficult to deploy at a large scale. By putting desalination ‘on ice,’ we hope to change that dynamic,” said Vitali Lissianski, a chemical engineer and project leader at GE Global Research’s Energy Systems Lab. “Freezing seawater to treat it is nothing new, but the way we are doing it is very different. We’re tapping into our wealth of technical knowledge in turbomachinery to devise a cost-effective solution.”
“You might say we’re turbo charging our way to an affordable water desalination system,” Lissianski added.
This process could be used to generate drinking water around the world. Compared to other technologies the cost of producing water would shrink by 20%.