I think it’s time for us to settle a longstanding issue that has been mildly irritating to me and perhaps to many of you as well: the use of the terms Desalination and Desalinization interchangeably.
I was recently interviewed on the Chip Franklin Show and the host (Chip) referred to the process of extracting fresh water from ocean water as “desalinization.” Not wanting to reveal my inherent pedanticism in public, I let it pass. But with NAWI becoming a nationally recognized authority on desalination, I thought we could “use our power for good” and set the record straight on the Desalination versus Desalinization issue.
I think we can all agree that “Desalination” refers to the process of extracting fresh water from an originally salty water source. Not only does the DOE refer to us as the Desalination Hub, but many journals in our space also use the term “desalination” to describe the process of extracting pure water from salt water. “Desalinization,” in contrast, is not simply a synonym for “desalination” but has a subtle but important distinction. The prefix “De-“ in front of the word “salinization” implies that the critical process is not extracting water from a salty source but rather extracting the salt from a material.
Consider the root word “salinization.” Salinization is very specifically defined as the process of accumulating salt in soil (which renders the soil less productive for agriculture). De-salinization would be the reverse of that process: the removal of salt from soil, or, at the very least: arresting the process that is leading to the salinization of the soil.
Where does this leave us in our research program? NAWI is focused on producing fresh water from non-traditional water sources: desalination. However some of our research projects (such as Aaron Wilson (INL), MIT and Trevi Systems’ project using Dimethylether as a draw solution to produce synthetic gypsum) are focused on precipitating and physically removing the salts themselves from the fluid. In this definitional schema, we would call that “desalinization of the brine.”
I suppose the test would be: what are you hoping to end up making? If it’s a puddle of water: you are desalinating. If it’s a pile of salt: you are desalinizing.
What do you think? Are the terms desalination and desalinization one and the same? Do you have an alternate definitional schema in mind? Let’s hear it: Email us your thoughts here.