Meet the team that may revolutionize water desalination, from left to right: Dr. Mona Naim, Dr. Abeer Moneer, Dr. Mahmoud Elewa, Dr. Ahmed El-Shafei.
Water scarcity is especially relevant to Egypt, where water availability per capita has fallen by more than 60 percent since 1970. By United Nations standards, Egypt is more than 30 percent below the threshold for scarcity and is considered “water poor,” a condition that is expected to worsen in the years ahead.
The solution is to find a way to make undrinkable water drinkable – turning saltwater into fresh. Unfortunately, the current methods are expensive and inefficient. The most widely used is reverse osmosis, which requires a substantial amount of electricity to push tainted water through a membrane that removes unwanted particles. A report by Yale University estimates that, at best, it costs twice as much to desalinate water with reverse osmosis as it does to process average groundwater.
Naim and her team developed a desalination technique that uses up to 70 percent less energy than reverse osmosis and can be powered by solar energy. Their work brings a key innovation to the field of desalination: a more efficient and inexpensive membrane. This membrane may, for the first time, make it feasible to desalinate large amounts of water using pervaporation, a technique in which water is purified using a combination of evaporation and membranes.
Their method uses cheap and abundant materials and can process water with very high levels of salt and contaminants. The team’s findings are among the most promising in this field in years and may eventually relieve some of the pressure on the earth’s clean water supply. Read more about the newest innovation in Desalination made in Egypt here.
Photo Credit: Mada Masr / Robert Barron