WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI) announced $5 million in federal funding to develop desalination technologies that will help bring freshwater supplies to communities across the nation.

“These water innovation projects allow for incredible development to improve energy efficiency in desalination processes” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “By building a circular economy of water that is more energy efficient and powered by renewable electricity, we’re not only staying on our path towards continuous industry decarbonization, we’re also pushing our water and wastewater infrastructure one step further in the future, and carving out a cleaner, greener energy economy for generations to come.”

Water sources for many communities contain high levels of salt and contaminants, a problem that can be intensified by changing precipitation patterns due to the climate crisis and regional population increase. Desalination can help diversify the range of accessible water resources. This will help the US meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while also helping all Americans access new supplies of freshwater.

The funding will support early-stage applied research on state-of-the-art, next generation technology desalination systems collaborative teams of industry, labs, and universities that treat non-traditional water sources.

The projects selected specifically address challenges of managing concentrated brine waste streams that are a by-product of the desalination process.

The projects selected are:

  • Stanford University (Lead), SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Aqua membranes, Inc., and Cascade Technologies, Inc: This innovation can improve energy efficiency and reduce the risk of mineral scaling on membrane surfaces.
  • Vanderbilt University (Lead), Colorado State University, Black & Veatch: This team will investigate a new brine crystallization process that will improve energy efficiency and reduce the total cost of crystallization.
  • Idaho National Laboratory (Lead), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Trevi Systems, and USG Corporation: This project pioneers the use of dimethyl ether (DME)-Driven Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) desalination potentially reducing ZLD costs 50% relative to state-of-the-art crystallizers.
  • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (Lead), National Energy Technology Laboratory, Veolia Water Technologies, OLI Systems, Inc.: This team will create a software program to better predict kinetic induction times which may improve capability of brine concentrators to operate at the edge of scale formation.
  • The University of Connecticut (Lead), Sandia National Laboratories, and Modelon, Inc.: This team will develop a new software toolset for the design and optimization of brine treatment processes.
  • Yale University (Lead), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Electric Power Research Institute, and Saltworks Technologies: This team aims to develop new and improved antiscalants to prevent equipment scaling and improve the efficiency of brine concentrators.

NAWI is an Energy Innovation Hub funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Office to address the barriers and needs surrounding the cost and energy for the desalination of water.

This announcement is part of DOE’s 2021 Future of Manufacturing campaign. For more information on DOE’s commitment to creating a resilient American manufacturing future that supports economy-wide decarbonization, and to join the conversation, visit the AMO website.

EERE’s mission is to accelerate the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies and solutions to equitably transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050, and ensure the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, creating good paying jobs for the American people—especially workers and communities impacted by the energy transition and those historically underserved by the energy system and overburdened by pollution.