New system uses 80% less energy than reverse osmosis researchers claim

Scientists at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) have devised a forward osmosis system which they claim could reduce the energy used in desalination for irrigation by up to 80 per cent.

Researchers from the UTS Centre for Technology in Water and Wastewater (CTWW) have the developing technology of Fertiliser Drawn Forward Osmosis (FDFO). Forward osmosis relies on osmotic pressure and so requires less energy that reverse osmosis. And researchers claim membrane fouling is much less prevalent in the forward process.
Research leader Dr Hokyong Shon said the process had much to offer a country that uses so much of its water for irrigation, said Shon. Australia uses 60 per cent of its water supply for irrigation. Desalination plants have been built around the country to reduce Australia’s reliance on rainfall.
“By reducing the demand that irrigation places on our traditional water supplies, we are conserving precious water for domestic use in our homes,” said Shon.
The FDFO system draws water from saline via osmosis by employing high-concentration, soluble fertilisers – typically ammonium hydrogen phosphates – on the opposite side of a membrane filter.
A pilot installation of a FDFO system has been adopted by New South Wales State Water through the National Centre of Excellence for Desalination Australia and is currently being used at a coal mining site to desalinate groundwater.
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