A novel method to turn seawater into clean drinking water has been developed by a student in Ottawa University, Canada.
The student in question is Mohammed Rasool Qtaishat, who founded "Water For All", with the aim of developing a new water technology to turn seawater into hygienic water on a large scale.
Current desalination technology extracts drinking water from seawater through several filtering steps and something called reverse osmosis, in which salt water is passed through a polymer membrane, separating solute from solvent.
The main problem is that because sodium chloride is such a small particle, the process is slow and very energy intensive.
In 2004, Qtaishat approached the Middle East Desalination Research Centre in Oman to fund his startup, called Water for All, and presented his method for developing a far more efficient way of turning seawater into drinking water.
The centre was so impressed, they offered him a scholarship to come to Canada and develop his technology.
Although Qtaishat's solution is top secret while the patent is still pending, he says refining the process is all about the type of material used in the membrane.
With this new material, his prototype is able to run on solar panels and produce 50 kilograms of water per metre square of the membrane per hour. That is 600 to 700 per cent more efficient than current technology, which produces about seven to eight kilograms per metre per hour.
"Water For All" has already attracted financial support, including 286,000 dollars in funding from the Middle East Desalination Research Center.
Water purification company Hyflux Ltd. in Singapore has shown interest in "Water for All" and Qtaishat has said that he will be applying for funding from NRCan, CIDA and other government organizations to get the pilot project going.
"All of this is just in the initial stages right now," he said. "After we prove our concept (with the pilot project), then we can attract investors to go to market," he added.
Qtaishat's technology has also won him the top prize of 10,000 dollars at the Ottawa Venture Tech Challenge in May, 2008.
According to James Smith, Venture Technology Challenge chair and partner with business law firm LaBarge Weinstein, "That entry had the idea with biggest scale. In terms of an environmental perspective, water scarcity is something we took for granted, but more and more it is on everyone's mind."