MemPower: Clear Water And Electricity from Ocean Water
While there is plenty of water in the world, good-quality drinking water can be scarce. MemPower employs membrane distillation using solar or residual heat to produce very pure water.
This new technology does not need electricity but generates it instead, so clean drinking water and electricity are produced from saltwater at the same time.
Wageningen University & Research is looking for partners to further develop and market this promising innovation, which won the MBR Global Water Award in 2017.
MemPower / MemStill
Norbert Kuipers, senior scientist at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research:
“The operation of the technology has been demonstrated on a laboratory scale and further development and scaling is now required. For the further development we are looking for commercial partners.”
Before explaining this, Kuipers talks about the backgrounds of MemPower.
“This is an extension of Memstill: an innovative water purification technology that selectively extracts water from seawater using membrane technology and (sustainable) heat, but does not produce electricity. We also seek partners for the development and application of Memstill to introduce the technology on a large scale. Many adjustments are no longer necessary, there have been several demos.”
With MemPower we can contribute to substantial improvements in the production of primary life needs. Memstill is not only suitable for desalinating seawater.
“You can also use it for processes in industry such as the energy and chemical sector and the food and bio-based industry.”
Industrial residual heat
As an example, he mentions the concentration of aqueous streams such as thickening fruit juices or brine streams, as well as the reduction of waste streams.
“That is more efficient in transport, because you have to transport less water.” And now there is also MemPower, a new process and the next step for the Memstill.
“We ensure that the amount of water vapor coming out of the membrane is just a little greater than the amount of drinking water that we drain. The drinking water then comes under pressure and the pressure difference we use to generate electricity, with which you can, for example, power the pumps of the installation. “
MemPower generates electricity in a circular way. Desalination of seawater is and remains a process that requires energy. MemPower requires (low temperature) heat, for example from solar panels or industrial residual heat. The fact that MemPower can convert part of that heat into electricity in a sustainable manner is a major advantage in the context of the energy transition.
MemPower is therefore suitable for dry, isolated areas with a lot of sun and little or no electricity infrastructure.
The ratio between the amount of drinking water and the amount of electricity produced by MemPower can be adjusted to the wishes of the user. This ratio can be different in dry, sunny areas anywhere in the world. We think of applications in places where drinking water has to be transported by ship, such as islands. Here too, the mix of clean water and electricity can be an advantage.
MemPower is an important breakthrough in the development of the more extensive Nexus of Water-Food-Energy. This can be done by producing water that is used in the food sector or by working up wastewater from this sector. MemPower requires heat, for example from solar panels or industrial residual heat. Part of this heat converts the technology into electricity in a sustainable way.
“Together with TNO, we are working on a project in which we link MemPower to thermal solar panels and optimize the installation in order to further improve the yield of water and electricity. Just like with Memstill, we are looking for partners from the business community.
At the same time, MemPower must be made ready for the market. The demand for drinking water is large, especially in combination with the production of electricity. This means that there are opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors looking for a commercially attractive product that contributes to the energy transition, solving a number of social problems and creating jobs. As far as Memstill is concerned, we can start tomorrow. MemPower will soon deliver the first results at the demo scale.
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