Sterling Water & NMSU Revolutionize Desalination

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Sterling Water LLC and Arrowhead Center, Inc. concluded license agreement negotiations to accelerate the break-through low-cost water desalination system developed by New Mexico State University engineers. The zero-emission technology can convert saltwater to pure drinking water on a round-the-clock basis – and its energy needs are so low existing solar technology or even the waste heat of an air conditioning system could power it.

The result is that you can use low-grade heat like solar energy or waste heat from a diesel engine, refrigerator, or air conditioner. The configuration adapts to various existing heat sources and liberates the product from the conventional infrastructure

Sterling Water LLC and Arrowhead Center, Inc. concluded license agreement negotiations to accelerate the break-through low-cost water desalination system developed by New Mexico State University engineers. The zero-emission technology can convert saltwater to pure drinking water on a round-the-clock basis – and its energy needs are so low existing solar technology or even the waste heat of an air conditioning system could power it.

A successful proof-of-concept model was developed last year confirming suspicion that the innovation truly represented a major step in the sustainable desalination industry. The NMSU-led project transferred the science and prototype model from lab bench to a market capable product. The research team, led by Dr. Nirmala Khandan in the College of Engineering at NMSU, discovered more than just an improvement on current generation ideas but an entire paradigm shift.    The inaugural unit produced over 200 gallons per day or enough pure water to meet the need for about 15 people, as forecasted by Peter H. Gleick, author of The World's Water 2008-2009: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources.

Many parts of the world have available brackish water resources that could be tapped and purified to augment limited freshwater supplies, but traditional desalination processes such as reverse osmosis and electrodialysis consume significant amounts of energy. In addition to the obvious challenges there are great demands necessary for the hidden infrastructure like electrical power generation and transmission, water distribution networks, and associated transmission losses for both
Kevin Boberg, Arrowhead Center CEO, traces the origins of the technology to a process, first developed by researchers in Florida, that makes distillation of saline water possible at relatively low temperatures – 45 to 50 degrees Celsius (113 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit) rather than the 60 to 100 C (140 to 212 F) required by most distillation processes.

The system utilizes the natural effects of gravity and atmospheric pressure to create a vacuum in which water can evaporate and condense at near-ambient temperatures. The vacuum is created between two 30-foot vertical tubes – one rising from a tank of saline water and the other from a tank of pure water –connected by a horizontal tube.

“Nature will always seek equilibrium,” George Forbes, Managing Director of Sterling Water, explained. “The contrasting fresh and salty water pools will seek to be the same at normal temperatures. The trick is to drive the reaction to our desired outcome.”

A nominal increase in the headspace water temperature induces the flow to go in the fresh water direction, so that pure, distilled water collects on one side and the brine concentrate is left behind in a separate container. A temperature increase of only 10 to 15 degrees is needed.

The result is that you can use low-grade heat like solar energy or waste heat from a diesel engine, refrigerator, or air conditioner. The configuration adapts to various existing heat sources and liberates the product from the conventional infrastructure like electricity.

Sterling Water’s version is powered by a solar panel which benefits the overall operation in many ways beyond the energy necessary to drive the desalination process. Forbes noted, “We favor solar power since the spare energy also drives pumps that manage the source water and we can store energy overnight to maintain continuous production.”

As with any desalination process, the system leaves behind a brine concentrate that must be disposed of, and some potential users may be put off by the unit’s height. Sterling Water intends to address these two issues with their next generation commercial version they are readying for the market. “When you aggregate the entire process from end-to-end the overall cost of desalination by this process becomes almost insignificant which opens the possibilities in uses never before thought possible. We believe this changes the game for our planet...” Forbes said.

Sterling Water based in the water scarce Middle East country of Qatar intends to bring the commercial model into full manufacturing in the coming year. “What better place to roll out a desalination innovation than the Arabian Gulf region. Few other places in the world have such an abundance of sun, salty water, and demand for fresh water.”

About Arrowhead Center - The Arrowhead Center fosters sustainable economic development by using a comprehensive approach to generate wealth, income, and employment in New Mexico. The focus is on the interrelated activities of technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, economic and workforce analyses, research park development, and business incubation. One of the Arrowhead Center's key strategies to accomplish its development mission is providing value-added solutions to unmet needs, and to work collaboratively with other economic and business development organizations. The project is one of many research initiatives at NMSU aimed at addressing the critical needs of New Mexico, the nation and our planet. Contact: Dr. Kevin Boberg, kboberg(at)ad(dot)nmsu(dot)edu

About Sterling Water – Sterling Water incubates and commercializes innovative ideas to clean, desalinate and treat the world’s water. With primary offices in the USA and Qatar and affiliates around the global, Sterling Water is positioned to leverage the flow of innovation, technology, cost efficient manufacturing and multi-cultural opportunities. The core team is composed of proven engineer-entrepreneurs with robust experience in the water and business community. Contact: Mr. George Forbes george(dot)forbes(at)forbesglobalgroup(dot)com

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George Forbes
Sterling Water
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