Electric power plants consume a lot of water every year. Most of the water is lost to the atmosphere in the form of steam.
According to studies by the UN and the US State Department, we are on the path to an extreme freshwater shortage by 2030. Almost 39% of US fresh water is used by the power plant. Electric power plants use water for generating steam energy and cooling purpose. This results in loss of water in the form of steam. The vapour is released into the atmosphere, where it forms a white plume. More water needs to be frequently added to the cooling system to account for the lost water vapour.
Collection of this wastewater vapour could save a lot of water.
MIT engineers have designed a system which recovers fresh water from the white plume emitted by power plants. With this technology, the engineers have started Infinite Cooling.
The technology basically uses a meshed window like structure at the opening of plume outlets. The mesh captures droplets at the point that they drift off of the rim. It does this by ionizing the plume with an electric beam of ions. Once charged, the droplets move towards the meshed screen. The droplets on the mesh drain drip and are collected for further use. A recent Paper published on this technology gives an in-depth information on lab scale experiments performed.
This technology can reduce 20-30% of water dependency on power plants. It also ensures cost saving in water sourcing and water treatment costs. With an 80% efficiency, this technology provides a cost-effective method to convert plume to drinking water.
“ This can be a great solution to address the global water crisis. It could offset the need for about 70% of new desalination plant installations in the next decade.”- Kripa Varanasi, Co-Founder & Chairman of Infinite Cooling.
Currently, Infinite Cooling is planning to install their technology in MIT campus’s power station. This would provide a full-scale testing of the system by the end of this year. The team says that this technology could help save water in MIT campus. Infinite cooling further aims to install their system in bigger power plants like Cape Town’s Koeberg Station.
These technologies might not quench the World’s thirst. But will help us to conserve water and diversify our sources of water.