UTEP to Compete in International Desalination Challenge
March 27, 2015 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
What: UTEP to compete in international Desal Prize competition
When: April 6-12. Media tours will take place at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. Thursday, April 9 or at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11.
Where: Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility, 500 Lavelle Road, Alamogordo, NM 88310
A team of engineers from The University of Texas at El Paso will compete against four teams in an international competition known as the Desal Prize. The competition pits teams and their cutting-edge desalination technologies against each other to encourage and accelerate innovative solutions to treat brackish water — water that is saltier than freshwater, but less salty than seawater.
Few cost-effective technologies exist that are suitable for treating brackish water in rural or remote settings. The Desal Prize aims to solve that problem by challenging participants to create environmentally sustainable small-scale brackish water desalination systems. The prototypes should be able to generate drinkable water for humans, as well as water for crops.
"I think we have a very competitive technology and an excellent team," said Malynda Cappelle, a member of the UTEP team who also serves as the associate director of the Center for Inland Desalination Systems (CIDS) at UTEP. "Our desalination technology is one of the most efficient out there."
The UTEP CIDS team, which also includes Director of CIDS Tom Davis, Ph.D., and Shane Walker, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering, plans to use its Zero Discharge Desalination (ZDD) system for the competition, which combines reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membranes to separate salt from water and electrodialysis metathesis to reduce waste and improve overall efficiency. The technology, which will be powered by solar panels, is expected to have at least a 93 percent recovery rate, meaning 93 percent of the brackish water that goes through the system will be drinkable or usable for irrigation.
The ZDD system also will produce a solid product, primarily composed of calcium and magnesium salts, from the leftover waste that farmers can use to improve soil conditions for more efficient irrigation and crop yield.
The finalists, which include individuals from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, will go head-to-head beginning Monday, April 6 at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
At the competition, teams and their technologies will be will be judged on several criteria, including cost-effectiveness, durability and percent water recovery. The top three performing technologies will receive prizes of $125,000, $50,000 and $25,000. The three winning teams will be invited to develop grant proposals to pilot their systems in a developing country of their choice. Up to $400,000 in total will be available to support the pilot projects.
The Desal Prize is sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Swedish International Development Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.
The public is invited to view the technologies and meet the teams at the BGNDRF in Alamogordo at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11.