Mobile desal plant could help fight drought

A team of German scientists has come up with a revolutionary design for a mobile water treatment plant which could bring hope to drought-affected areas of the world.

The researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Freiburg said they have been carrying out tests on their small, decentralised water treatment plants with an autonomous power supply in recent weeks and that they hope they will move into production in the coming months.

According to the team, the plant can produce 120 to 150 litres of pure drinking water per day from salty seawater or brackish water.

“Our plants work on the principle of membrane distillation,” explained one of the team, Joachim Koschikowski.

“In our plant, the salty water is heated up and guided along a micro-porous, water-repellent membrane. Cold drinking water flows along the other side of the membrane.

“The salt is left behind and the water vapour condenses as it cools on the other side. It leaves us with clean, germ-free water.”

The team said that the units could be particularly useful for communities in rural parts of Africa and India, where there are not the funds for permanent desalination plants.

Tests in Gran Canaria and Jordan of the new system have already proved very successful.

James Cooper

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