Low-cost desalination development gets EPA funding

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded more than US$ 79,000 from its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to Okeanos Technologies LLC of Covington, Kentucky, to develop a low-cost desalination system.

Okeanos is developing a desalination system that uses Ion Concentration Polarization (ICP) elements and modular arrays and EPA wants this developed to produce potable water at off-grid, remote, developing, and/or disaster stricken areas.

ICP is said to be able to separate water from solutes and contaminants far more efficiently than reverse osmosis (RO) or electrodialysis (ED) because no extreme hydraulic pressures or heat sources are needed. This improved efficiency translates into order-of- magnitude savings in operational costs (US$ 0.20/m³ product water for ICP vs US$ 2-10/m³ for RO and ED).

It is also suitable for alternative-energy powered/off-grid.

Okeanos says that, with modular construction and scaling of cost benefits with respect to output, ICP is projected to out-compete RO and ED in developed, municipal settings as well, with implications for “the amelioration of upside‑down budgets created in part due to high energy expenses for public utilities”.

In its brief on the EPA website, Okeanos says, “We already have demonstrated proof-of-principle with a 1.0 version of the Okeanos WaterChip™ ICP Array Element and recently have developed a highly parallelized, industrial-scale, commercial-grade 2.0 version capable of significant water production rates. In this Phase I SBIR project, we propose to finish our work on this 2.0 version, specifically to augment the design of the element to optimize performance and ensure that our ion-selective interface structure will be robust to constant water flows over time.”

The SBIR program is part of EPA’s Technology Innovation for Environmental and Economic Progress: An EPA Roadmap, which focuses on linking research and development, policy and finance. The SBIR program supports small businesses’ development of new technologies addressing key environmental areas.

The technological concepts submitted to this year’s competition include drinking water monitoring and treatment, sustainable infrastructures, green building, innovation in manufacturing, greenhouse gas reduction, air pollution monitoring and control and waste monitoring and management.