Ms. Mercedes Kovacsics
Job title: PhD Student
School: School of Natural and Built Environment
Location: David Keir Building, Stranmillis Rd., BT9 5AG
Telephone: (+44) (0) 28 9097 4751
MEng (Hons) Chemical Engineering – Queen’s University Belfast
Desalination Using Marine Renewable Energy Sources
The availability of fresh water is one of today’s greatest challenges as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and embracing a low carbon future. Traditional desalination plants contribute to a significant amount of global emissions. The solution to these issues would be a desalination plant powered by renewable energy. Marine renewable energy sources are particularly attractive, as both the energy source and raw material are found in the same place.
There is a vast amount of renewable energy sources that can power a desalination plant, including wave, solar and wind power. However, these are primarily used to generate electricity and much of the energy is lost through conversion. Currently, renewable energy powers 1% of all desalination plants and these use electricity as opposed to using hydraulic or mechanic power generated by the devices. Using renewable energy to power the desalination process directly, would lead to much higher efficiencies.
Reverse osmosis is the choice of desalination technology for this project, where the change in osmotic pressure is used to drive water through a membrane which retains the brine. The most favourable aspect of this technology is its low energy requirement of 2-5 kWh/m3. However, following the initial investment, the cost of a renewable energy desalination plant is very low and waves for example, carry large amounts of energy. Additionally, a current issue with reverse osmosis powered by renewable energy is the intermittent supply of energy, while a constant source is required for the optimum operation of the membranes. On the other hand, no detrimental effects due to variable operation have been reported.
The aims of this project are to evaluate the effects of variable energy supply on the membrane and fresh water production. For this, a mathematical model will be calibrated along with identifying appropriate control strategies and key technological challenges. Finally, the cost and efficiency of the system will be investigated.