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New technology uses solar energy to transform salt water into drinking water

26 January 2022
At a time when the problem of water scarcity is increasingly being discussed, a new desalination system powered by solar thermal energy is being developed at INEGI, which promises to contribute to mitigating this problem.

Szabolcs Varga, researcher who leads the development team at INEGI and visiting professor at the Faculty of Engineering at UP, explains that "salt water desalination is a solution to deal with the insufficiency of potable water, but it is still a high-cost process and that consumes a lot of energy. The technology we are developing, however, introduces renewable energy, thus bypassing these obstacles”.

It is a small-scale desalination equipment that uses solar thermal energy and thermal vapor compression technology to turn salt water into potable water. To this end, it has two systems that work in parallel: the solar thermal collector and the desalination subsystem.

Solar thermal collector

It was designed for small-scale, local and community applications, making it easy to use and maintain. Szabolcs Varga also emphasizes that, "the use of renewable energy sources avoids the use of fossil fuels and contributes to the reduction of the carbon footprint".

At INEGI, the first prototypes are being installed, with their respective monitoring and control systems. The next step is to carry out experimental tests.

According to data from the United Nations, the use of water in the world has been increasing by about 1% per year, due to population growth and rising living standards. The scarcity of this resource is therefore a pressing problem.

This work is being developed within the scope of the SMALL_SOLDES project, and is co-funded by the European Union through the COMPETE 2020 program, and by the FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia.
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