Over than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water. Water crises affect 2.8 billion people around the world at least one month out of each year. Scarcity is usually caused by climate change, increased pollution, and increased human demand for fresh water. Just yesterday (July 1st), gunfire broke out at riot due to water scarcity in Iran.
Recently the U.S. Department of Energy awarded two million dollars, the largest award in OSU-Cascades history, to energy systems engineering professor Bahman Abbasi. Dr. Abbasi will use the funds to lead a team of researchers from four different universities in a three-year project to develop a new solar-thermal desalination technology. In other words, Abbasi’s research indicates the potential for a “modular, scalable, portable, and economical” technology that will transform salt water into drinkable fresh water. The new technology will theoretically be portable enough to be transported by vehicle to low-access areas. Abbasi says, “our goal is to develop a transportable and off-grid desalination system that can be used along coastlines, other bodies of water, or in conjunction with existing desalination plants to deliver fresh drinking water to water-stressed communities, particularly those most in need.” The technology will be powered by either a local grid or solar panels.
Abbasi’s vision is to aid in the transition to a sustainable “energy-water-food” future. The team believes that the new system will also be economically sustainable, with the cost of producing fresh water less than the retail price of drinking water in the U.S. The team includes researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Maryland and the University of Nevada-Reno; undergraduates in the energy systems engineering program at OSU-Cascades also contributed to the design of the new desalination technology.