Currently, more than two billion people globally are living in countries where the demand for water exceeds the available amount. With global demand for water set to outstrip supply in the years ahead and climate change increasing the likelihood of drought, new approaches are needed to ensure the world’s population has reliable access to clean drinking water.

University of Birmingham mechanical engineers Dr. Raya AL-Dadah and Dr. Saad Mahmoud have responded to this challenge by developing an innovative, energy-efficient desalination system.

The system is made possible thanks to a new microporous material developed by the team in collaboration with industrial partners. The material is highly attractive to water, enabling sea water to be evaporated at low temperature, which means it requires significantly less electricity than systems which rely on heating sea water. 

Once the water is attached to the microporous material, it is then dried using thermal energy and waste heat generated by industrial. It is this process which fresh drinking water.

A by-product of the evaporation process is chilled fluid, which can be used to power air-conditioning systems.

The University is currently working with partners in Egypt and the Middle East to further develop the system, with the aim of achieving commercial production by 2019.