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Is This The Future Of Water?

It seems like more and more often, people in the chemical industry want to talk about WATER. Put fairly simply, they want to use less water by recycling the water they do use or finding innovative ways to use water efficiently.

It's not surprising. The world grows, but the amount of usable water stays fairly constant, it just goes around in a circle called the water cycle.

I've been following an interesting technology for a while now and it looks like one company is about to begin the commercialization process. Oasys Water just raised $10 million dollars to take their forward osmosis (FO) process mainstream. If you're interested in a deeper look at the technology beyond the press releases, check out the December 2008 issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

In short, FO uses a "draw solution" and a membrane to allow water molecules to flow from a lower concentration of salt (seawater for example) to a highly concentrated salt solution (called the "draw solution"). The idea isn't new, but has been largely discarded in the past because the salts used in the draw solution couldn't be driven off the water effectively whether the challenge was economics or purity. Oasys Water founder, Robert MsGinnis, claims to have solved this problem and if he's correct, he may have one of the great engineering achievements that we've seen in a while. Below is a nice video on the subject as well:

McGinnis cites an approximate temperature of about 122 degree F needed to drive off his solute and leave behind pure water. The solute components (ammonia, carbon dioxide, and others that McGinnis keeps secret) can be recycled and used to recharge the next batch of draw solution.

The benefits of this technology are very exciting and for now, Oasys seems to be focusing on desalination (and why not). Looks like we're getting closer to being able to use low grade heat to purify sea water with what looks on the surface to be an environmentally friendly answer.

Drop your comments below, let me know what you think about the technology.


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