GE testing ice water desalination technology

Industrial conglomerate, GE, is testing a desalination system based on a salt and ice mixture that, according to the firm's researchers, produces fresh water at 80% of the cost of conventional thermal desalination.

GE is working with the us Department of Energy to develop a desalination technology using a miniature steam turbine made by 3D printing to compress and stream a mixture of air, salt and water through a cooling loop that freezes seawater.

Freezing the mixture separates the salt as a solid leaving ice which is then melted to produce fresh water.

Lead researcher on the project, Douglas Hofer, explained the GE team was exploiting the process whereby steam condenses to water on its expansion on passing through a low-pressure steam turbine. The GE desalination system, he said, extrapolates that process to freeze liquid salt water into solid ice and salt crystals during its expansion through the miniature turbine.

GE cited a recent repot by market analyst Frost & Sullivan showing that growing global water scarcity had created opportunities for growth in the desalination market.

Frost & Sullivan found that desalination revenues were poised to reach US$ 19.08 billion in 2019 from US$ 11.66 billion in 2015 with a doubling of desalination capacity by 2020.

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