PROJECT PROFILE: Oregon State University (Solar Desalination)

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Project Name: Zero-Liquid Discharge Water Desalination Process Using Humidification-Dehumidification in a Thermally Actuated Transport Reactor
Funding Opportunity: Solar Desalination
SETO Subprogram: Concentrating Solar Power
Location: Bend, OR
SETO Award Amount: $2,000,000
Awardee Cost Share: $500,000
Principal Investigator: Bahman Abbasi

This project will develop a prototype of a new humidification-dehumidification thermal desalination system that can treat highly saline water with zero liquid discharge. The technology is modular, lightweight, highly portable, scalable, and can treat water with a higher salinity than seawater. The process is driven by solar-thermal energy and uses low-temperature heat. The project aims to produce cost-competitive clean water with no liquid discharge.  


The new process uses a solar-heat-driven reactor to force air through a series of nozzles to vaporize the saline water and create a humid air stream. This stream enters a cyclone reactor, where the air swirls, creating a high-speed vortex. The combination of the vortex and gravity separate the salt from the humid air. At that point, the heat from the humid air stream is recouped, and the humid air condenses to become clean water. The overall process eliminates the need for membranes, high-pressure processes, and electricity, helping to reduce operating costs.


Unlike other humidification-dehumidification processes, this concept does not require electricity and instead relies entirely on solar-thermal heat or other low-temperature heat. It operates at low pressures and does not use any membranes or packed materials, which minimizes fouling and reduces material and maintenance costs. These factors make the technology much more efficient and durable, enabling it to purify high-salinity water. Its lightweight, modular design will enable easy transport to remote areas that lack access to clean water.