Producing clean, usable water from brackish water and seawater using cost- and energy-efficient methods is the aim of a research project underway at New Mexico Tech. Ashok Ghosh, associate professor of mechanical engineering, presented his research team’s progress on a “green desalination” project currently in development at Innovate New Mexico Technology Showcase March 7, at Sandia Golf Club in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Representatives and researchers from New Mexico’s seven major research institutions, including the University of New Mexico, the Air Force Research Lab, Los Alamos National Lab, Sandia National Labs, NASA–White Sands Test Facility, New Mexico Tech, and New Mexico State University – listened to technical presentations, panel discussions, and discussions of technology capabilities in New Mexico at the daylong annual conference.
Ghosh and his management and research teams have received nearly $2 million in federal funding to develop this technology to a TRL (Technology Readiness Level) of 6 or higher. Current investigation is in collaboration with Sandia National Labs to pursue efforts to develop the next generation of the membrane module that will dramatically improve the scalability of the technology.
“Forward osmosis technology has the ability to clean dissolved salts in a cost-effective manner, something that is not possible using reverse osmosis, due to the high pressure and excessive energy required to overcome the osmotic potential,” he said.
Ghosh’s presentation highlighted a field demonstration of the green desalination technology in Jal, near Hobbs in southeast New Mexico. An economic analysis of the data from the field demonstration examined both reverse and forward osmosis, comparing initial costs, energy costs, and operating and maintenance costs. Because more than 420,000 small independently owned stripper wells exist in the United States that generate billions of barrels of water contaminated with oil and grease, suspended solids, and total dissolved solids, the green desalination technology under development has major potential for future growth, he said.
Ghosh is working with NMT’s Research Office and Office of Innovation Commercialization on business planning efforts, which involve looking for funding partners to fully develop and commercialize the technology.