Lack of access to freshwater is a major touchpoint of our times, as we require it for drinking, washing, and a wide variety of industrial processes, and one of the biggest challenges facing nations in arid regions is supplying fresh potable water in a cost-effective and energy-efficient manner.
Because the largest source of water for many countries is the ocean, using seawater desalination plants to render the ocean’s water drinkable has become the focus for many countries, but the process is an energy-intensive one, which creates yet another issue. To make desalination a more sustainable water solution, it needs to be more energy-efficient, or to be powered, at least in part, through renewable energy, in order to not significantly contribute to increased energy use to supply one of our most precious resources.
“Desalination works by pushing salt water pressurized up to 1,000 pounds per square inch through a superfine membrane, which stops the larger salt molecules and lets fresh water through. Because of all that pressure and pumping, energy consumption adds up to 70 percent of the cost of desalination. The process gobbles up globally 75 terawatts of electricity, enough to power almost 7 million homes.” – GE Reports
To spur innovation in seawater desalination, GE and Saudi Aramco have partnered on an open innovation challenge that seeks to use “innovative renewable energy processes or new materials” to significantly lower the cost of the process, and in so doing, to also reduce the energy input needed for supplying fresh water from the ocean.
The GE + Saudi Aramco ecomagination Challenge is offering $200,000 in prizes, plus the opportunity to collaborate with the companies to develop their energy-efficient seawater desalination solutions. The four winners of the challenge will receive $50,000 each and the possibility for further investment to fully develop and scale their proposed solutions to a commercial level.
“The goal of this quest is to identify novel ways to lower desalination costs. These approaches might include development of new advanced materials, innovative uses of renewable energy, and/or integrating desalination with processes like mineral recovery.”
To submit your energy-efficient or renewable energy powered seawater desalination solution to this challenge, which runs through July 16th, 2014, see GE + Saudi Aramco ecomagination Challenge.