© TU Delft
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Creating clean drinking water is expensive and harmful to the environment. In addition, clean drinking water is finite. By 2030, the demand for drinking water will exceed our global water supply. Therefore, sustainable solutions are needed. That’s why Innovation Origins selected this news.

A desalination installation in Lampedusa is producing drinking water, salts, and chemicals from seawater in an environmentally friendly way. The TU Delft researchers have developed the large-scale demo, writes the university in a press release.

The installation is part of the WATER-MINING project from Delft University of Technology. The Delft researchers have developed a large-scale demo with a total capacity of 50 m3/day. Project Leader Dimitris Xevgenos: “The demo system results in the recovery of high quality freshwater, salts and chemicals, while sourcing more than half of the energy requirements through waste heat recovered from the nearby power plant.”

The demo system will stay in Lampedusa until end of December this year. Afterwards, the researchers are planning on bringing a full scale installation to Cyprus. “We’re looking into the possibilities of implementing a full-scale desalination system there and giving materials back to the local economy, creating a circular economy”, Xevgenos says.

Desalination process

To sustain its community and related economic activities, Lampedusa is hundred percent dependent on seawater desalination to provide its water needs.. A desalination facility is running since 1972 with a total capacity of 3,500 m3/day. This solution has secured water supply, but at the same time has put some pressure to the island’s environment; accounting for approximately ten percent of the total energy consumption, as well as damage to the ecosystem through brine discharge back into the sea.

The desalination process integrates innovative technologies that enable a circular economy. TU Delft is partnering with 38 companies and universities from 12 different countries to not only decarbonise the process, but also recover salts and chemicals.

The process works as follows. The first step is a pretreatment stage to purify the seawater or brine with the help of nanofiltration, a technology supplied by the Dutch company LENNTECH. After the primary purification step, the brine is further concentrated with an extra nanofiltration step and a thermal evaporator. In the final step, the salts are retrieved using a crystallisation technology from TU Delft. Finally acid and base are produced from remaining salts by an electrodialysis process.

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