Novel desalting

Novel desalting can exploit the unique properties of water and saline solutions. The Centre is particularly interested in identifying and piloting novel technologies for Australia’s rural and remote needs, against a benchmark of brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO). The Centre’s novel desalting projects include:

 

Application of capacitive deionisation in inland brackish water desalination

Primary Investigator: Prof. Linda Zou, University of South Australia
Research Participants: University of South Australia, Power and Water Corporation, SA Water, Water Quality Research Australia, LT Green Energy
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination, Power and Water Corporation, SA Water, Water Quality Research Australia
Total project value: $560,000
Date completed: November 2013

The overall objective of this project is to transfer capacitive deionisation technology into applications for inland drinking water supply and direct agricultural use by desalting brackish groundwater. Site trials in a regional inland Northern Territory location will be conducted to investigate the full operational performance of the technologies. The key outcomes will establish the feasibility of this novel technology in real-world situations, and provide answers to a series of technical challenges faced when applying this new desalination technology for inland water supply and for direct agricultural uses.

Publications

 

Developing highly conductive graphene electrodes for capacitive desalination

Primary Investigator: Prof. Linda Zou, University of South Australia
Research Participants: University of South Australia, SA Water
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination
Total project value: $390,000
Date completed: October 2012

Capacitive deionisation (CDI) is a promising alternative technology in desalination. It targets the removal of salt ions which are only a small percentage of the feed solution, as compared to most other technologies that aim to shift water which accounts of 90% of the feed solution. As a result, CDI requires less energy to operate and the electrodes are easily regenerated. Porous carbon materials are the most important component in the CDI processes, as they are used as the electrodes that play a significant role in the efficiency of the desalting process. The ideal electrode materials for CDI should be both highly conductive and of high surface area and suitable pore structures. The currently available carbon electrodes limit the desalination efficiency of CDI due to their low conductivity and non-ideal pore structure and pattern. Previous research has demonstrated that the efficiency of CDI strongly depends upon the surface properties of the carbon electrodes, such as surface area and pore microstructure. Many kinds of carbon materials have been investigated as CDI electrodes such as carbon aerogel, carbon cloth, carbon nanotubes and mesoporous carbons. The aim of this project is to build on the existing research projects in my research group, to develop and evaluate the potential of using graphene nano platelets as novel electrode materials in capacitive desalination. The research challenge is to achieve ideal highly conductive properties as well as desirable nano platelet structure. Both are crucial for attaining high desalination performance.

Publications

 

The development of graphene/porous carbon electrodes in CDI technology

Primary Investigator: Prof. Linda Zou, University of South Australia
Research Participants: University of South Australia, SA Water
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination
Total project value: $1,080,000

The research work on developing novel electrode materials to continuously improve their desalting performance in capacitive deionisation has been a continuous effort at Prof Zou’s group at UniSA. Until now, the research focus has been to be innovative in the synthesis of better materials by taking into consideration the required properties for the CDI process. It is believed that the discovery has reached a level that is very close to commercial reality, i.e. to transfer the novel material into sizable prototype electrodes in CDI. Based on the progress in this technology development front, it is important to accelerate the transfer of advanced graphene materials into the development of commercially scale graphene/porous carbon electrodes, so that the gained rich research expertise and experience from many years work can be captured to make contributions that have real commercial potential and market implications. This additional project will help to demonstrate that NCEDA can take a unique concept using government research funding to develop a tangible practical process and prove this novel concept in a relatively short period of time. The overall aim of the project is to develop the patentable technical know-how of the synthesis of electrode materials and fabrication of these materials into large scale electrode materials that represent the required size for commercial inland brackish water desalination application.

 

Development of a novel low grade heat driven desalination technology

Primary Investigator: Prof. Hui Tong Chua, The University of Western Australia
Research Participants: The University of Western Australia, industry partners
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination
Total project value: $1,078,000

Low‐grade heat driven desalination plants provide solutions for water needs in remote and rural communities, remote mine sites (both for drinking and mineral refining) and the water intensive process industry. In many such instances reverse osmosis systems cannot supply the desired freshwater owing to various factors such as extremely high salinities, presence of toxins from mine wastes, natural geological resources and radioactive deposits and lack of available electrical power. These limitations do not apply to the Multi‐Effect‐Distillation (MED) process since it is an established low‐grade heat driven technology that can deal with any contaminants and salinity levels. The Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence has developed a novel technology which boosts the efficiency of standard MED by 30% and more in terms of freshwater yield with a standard coolant temperature of 20°C. This is done by exploiting the unique nature of low-grade heat such as for instance supplied by a geothermal bore, or low-grade heat rejection from process industry. This proposal is the first step towards commercialisation of the novel MED technology which is proposed in three phases: (1) Demonstrate the technology with a containerised 1 m3/day first generation two‐effect prototype proposed to be built and evaluated at the NCED Rockingham site. (2) Build a containerised second generation 4 m3/day three‐effect MED prototype at the NCED site. (3) Demonstrate a four‐effect prototype under field conditions in an already identified commercial water intensive mineral processing plant, with a nominal capacity of 4000 m3/day of freshwater production.

Publications

 

Extraction of water and minerals from coal seam gas produced water for beneficial use

Primary Investigator: A/Prof. Long Nghiem, University of Wollongong
Research Participants: University of Wollongong, Victoria University, AGL, Osmoflo, Colorado School of Mines (USA), Sasakura (Japan), AquaStill (Netherlands)
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination, AGL
Total project value: $1,161,000

A major issue associated with the production of coal seam gas (CSG) is the management of co-produced water. This project will develop a holistic approach to the management and beneficial utilisation of CSG water as well as its mineral content. A specific focus is on the development of low maintenance membrane distillation and multi effect distillation systems using on-site low grade heat to increase water recovery. The project will also evaluate the production of sodium hydroxide from the supersaturated concentrate using a chlor-alkali membrane electrolysis process.

 

Fertilisers as draw solutes for forward osmosis desalination: a novel approach for fertigation in the murray darling basin

Primary Investigator: Dr Ho Kyong Shon, University of Technology Sydney
Research Participants: University of Technology Sydney, NSW State Water, Korea University, Yale University, CSIRO
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination
Total project value: $715,000

Drought and water scarcity are common in Australia and desalination is increasingly sought to augment fresh water supplies to meet the growing water demand. Although, the cost of reverse osmosis base desalination has substantially reduced, it still remains energy intensive. Forward Osmosis (FO) is an emerging and novel desalination technology with significant lower energy but still lags large scale application due to a lack of suitable draw solution that can be easily recovered with minimal energy. However, FO technology is particularly suitable where the separation of the draw solute and desalinated water is not essential. Our recent investigation with some fertilisers indicates that most commercially available fertilisers can be used as osmotic draw solutes. This led to the idea of applying FO technology in agriculture where the diluted fertiliser draw solution containing desalinated water can be used directly for fertilised irrigation (fertigation) instead of further subjecting to a separation process. Such technology can be suitably applied in the Murray-Darling Basin to convert brackish groundwater into nutrient rich irrigation water with minimum energy. The FO desalination process can be integrated with the existing salt interception scheme in the basin where brackish groundwater is pumped out and simply lost through evaporation. Such desalination scheme can a significant impact on the agriculture in the drought prone areas of Australia, leading to sustainable use of brackish groundwater. However, this concept is still at an early stage and lacks literature on the fundamentals and its application. Therefore, this project aims at firstly evaluating the potential of various forms of fertilisers for use as FO draw solute and then optimising the process parameters for desalination of brackish groundwater ultimately leading to the design of a pilot scale FO desalination unit for fertigation application.

Publications

 

High water recovery inland desalination using membrane distillation with ceramic membranes

Primary Investigator: Prof. Joe da Costa, University of Queensland
Research Participants: The University of Queensland
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination
Total project value: $750,000

Inland desalination is a growing practice due to the increasing water needs of inland based communities and commercial operations. Conventional technologies such as reverse osmosis can be used for such purposes,although there are associated problems with fouling, power supply and brine disposal. Hence, there is a need to develop novel enabling desalination technologies that address these problems and also deliver value to inlandcommunities and companies. This project aims to trial a new thermally based robust ceramic desalination membrane to achieve higher water recoveries at lower capital and operating cost. These ceramic membranes will be field tested using a membrane distillation pilot plant that will be built as part of this project, with a targeted production capacity of 10 litres perday. The anticipated performance and cost data from this research will be critical for scaling‐up to larger trials and identifying the commercial potential for this new technology.

 

Pilot-scale fertiliser driven forward osmosis desalination of brackish groundwater for the Murray River

Primary Investigator: Dr Ho Kyong Shon, University of Technology Sydney
Research Participants: University of Technology Sydney, NSW State Water, Korea University, Yale University, CSIRO
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination
Total project value: $513,500

The overall aims of the proposed project are to develop and study a pilot scale FDFO‐NF hybrid system for direct fertigation that will cover for two years. The specific objectives and methodology are: (1) Fabrication and testing of the pilot‐scale FDFO‐NF hybrid system and optimisation of process operating conditions at UTS, (2) Trial run of the pilot scale FDFO‐NF unit for brackish groundwater desalination at a site near one of the salt interception scheme (SIS) located, at Buronga, NSW, (3) Applications of targeted fertilisers produced from the pilot‐scale FDFO‐NF hybrid system to vegetables, oranges, olives and grape vines, and (4) Life cycle assessment and full‐scale simulation of the fertiliser‐driven FO hybrid system.

Publications

 

Pre-feasibility investigation of water and energy options utilising geothermal energy, multi-effect distillation and reverse osmosis

Primary Investigator: Prof. Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, The University of Western Australia
Research Participants: The University of Western Australia, CSIRO Land and Water, Pilbara Cities Office of the WA Department of Regional Development and Lands, Water Corporation, WA Department of Water
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination, Pilbara Cities Office of the WA Department of Regional Development and Lands
Total project value: $355,000

This project is the first phase of a feasibility program to investigate and encourage the use of geothermal and waste heat resources for heat-driven pre-treatment and desalination of brackish and saline water. The Phase 1 pre-feasibility will provide stakeholders with an economic, technical and market analysis of various scales of technology application where geothermal energy is coupled with water production. It will also identify geographic areas where the technology may be most economic to apply. Phase 1 will highlight conditions, scale and technology mix where a project presents the most likely indications for commercial viability.

 

Tjuntjunjarra remote inland indigenous community solar/waste energy groundwater desalination project

Primary Investigator: Dr Trevor Pryor, Murdoch University
Research Participants: Murdoch University, University of Technology Sydney, WA Department of Housing, Parsons Brinckerhoff, memsys clearwater (Singapore), Institute of Filtration and Techniques of Separation (France), Singapore Membrane Technology Center
Funded by: National Centre of Excellence in Desalination, WA Department of Housing
Total project value: $1,087,000

This research project originated from the needs of the Tjuntjunjarra community, located 800 km northeast of Kalgoorlie. The project partners from industry, government, community service providers, and research institutes aim to develop a suitable and sustainable desalination system for providing drinking water in remote areas, with a strong focus on reliability. The project aims to overcome the problem of intermittency of renewable energy resources by developing a cost-effective hybrid solar/waste thermal system to power an innovative thermal vacuum-multi-effect-membrane-distillation desalination system.

Publications

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