Clean water and clean energy from the same device
A report from the BBC News website heralds a potential breakthrough in the production of clean drinking water for millions of people.
Researchers have found a way to make solar panels use some of the heat energy they create when producing power to purify sea water.
In emerging regions, producing both clean water and green energy can be huge problems, which significantly limit sustainable development. Generating electricity already uses vast amounts of water, with about 50% of the UK’s water usage being for generating electricity.
On the flipside, in countries where fresh water is in short supply but sea water plentiful, up to 15% of total energy consumption can be taken up by desalination.
Clearly, producing clean water and energy can have detrimental effects on the very environment the initiatives seek to preserve.
But maybe not for much longer. A new experiment combines both these actions in one device. It’s a pretty complicated process (the BBC report has the full details), but essentially, the heat output from the new solar panels evaporates seawater which then travels across and condenses on the other side of the unit.
It’s likely to be a long journey to develop a commercially-viable version of the model. But researchers estimate that, if and when it does become available, such a device could produce around 10% of the total amount of water consumed each year.