Use of Carbon Nanotubes for Efficient Reverse Osmosis

NanOasis
Carbon Nanotube Membrane Elements for Energy Efficient and Low Cost Reverse Osmosis
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,740,040
Location: 
Richmond, CA
Project Term: 
01/01/2010 to 10/14/2011
Project Status: 
CANCELLED
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Desalination, or the process of removing salt and dissolved solids from brackish water or sea water, plays an important role in the secure and reliable provision of clean, potable water. Reverse osmosis has emerged as the lowest cost desalination process, however it still remains relatively expensive and highly energy intensive. In order to meet the growing world demand for clean, potable water, there is a need to make the process less costly and less energy intensive.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
NanOasis is developing better membranes to filter salt from water during the reverse osmosis desalination process. Conventional reverse osmosis desalination processes pump water through a thin film membrane to separate out the salt. However, these membranes only provide modest water permeability, making the process highly energy intensive and expensive. NanOasis is developing membranes that consist of a thin, dense film with carbon nanotube pores that significantly enhance water transport, while effectively excluding the salt. Water can flow through the tiny pores of these carbon nanotubes quickly and with less pressure, drastically reducing the overall energy use and cost of the desalination process. In addition, NanOasis technology was purported to not require any modifications to existing desalination plants, so it could be easily deployed.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, NanOasis' membrane technology could make the desalination process up to 10 times more permeable, reducing the energy costs associated with desalination by 30-50%.
Security: 
Improving the reverse osmosis desalination process can help secure clean water for drinking, agricultural, and industrial applications and help the U.S. position regain its technological leadership in the area of water treatment.
Environment: 
Improving desalination and wastewater reuse could yield an estimated 290 trillion watts in energy savings over 10 years, corresponding to 177 million tons of CO2.
Economy: 
Inexpensive and reliable access to potable water could help drive U.S. economic growth for both agricultural and industrial purposes.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Dane Boysen
Project Contact: 
Chris Kennedy