Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI), announced USD 29,180,282 in total funding (USD 17,730,476 in federal funds and USD 11,449,806 in cost share [39%]) for sixteen projects to support the development of innovative water treatment technologies for the U.S. These selected projects, in combination with other ongoing NAWI-funded projects, are advancing research in NAWI’s challenge areas including autonomous operation, modular and manufacturable systems, and electrified treatment processes.
The projects will deliver impact aligned with NAWI’s pipe parity metrics and further the country towards net-zero emissions by 2050. The selected projects aim to address some of the greatest challenges relating to water and energy security. All NAWI-selected projects support the development of low-cost and energy-efficient desalination technologies to improve nationwide water infrastructure decarbonization and to build climate resilience.
“We are eager to partner with NAWI to support these awardees, whose work will improve the quality and availability of water for human consumption, agriculture, and energy and materials production,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “The projects announced today will apply cutting-edge research and development to our water-management challenges, ensuring we make the most of every water resource at our disposal.”
Improved desalination technologies can make nontraditional sources of water a cost-effective alternative. These nontraditional sources can then be applied to a variety of beneficial uses, such as industrial process water and irrigation. As an added benefit, these water supplies contain valuable minerals and organic materials that can be reclaimed and usefully repurposed.
The selected projects will perform research in autonomous operation, modular and manufacturable systems, and electrified treatment processes. These research topics support the technology-related goals established in the NAWI Master Roadmap, which was published in the summer of 2021.
Here are the sixteen selected projects:
- The University of Texas at Austin (Lead), Carollo Engineers, Georgia Institute of Technology, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), BlueTech Research, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Eastman Chemical Company (North Ghent and Indian Orchard Sites.)
Title: Assessing the Impact of A-PRIME on Industrial Sector Supply Portfolios: Chemical Industry Case Studies
This project will develop a circular water systems analysis (CWSA) software tool to enable industrial water users to better quantify the total value of implementing novel water treatment, desalination, and reuse systems at their facilities.
- University of California, Berkeley (Lead), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Fresno State University, University of California, Davis, and Meridian Institute
This project will complete the first ever study of how distributed desalination and water reuse could secure new water supplies for California’s Central Valley while potentially creating new economic opportunity through the manufacturing of valuable products from brine waste streams from desalination.
- Stanford University (Lead)
This project will develop a new decision support software tool to enable urban water planners and operators to identify cost- and energy-optimal non-traditional source water augmentation pathways, including desalination, that enhance municipal resilience against current and future water shortages.
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Lead), Baylor University, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado Springs Utilities, inCTRL Solutions, IntelliFlux Controls, Inc., and Rockwell Automation
Title: Advanced Process Controls – Autonomous Control and Optimization
This project will develop novel process control methods for water treatment facilities that enable operators to predict and adapt to impending process upsets and equipment failures to enable safe and reliable operations of desalination and water reuse facilities.
- University of California at Irvine (Lead), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Orange County Water District (OCWD), Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), Glacier Technologies International, Inc., Brown and Caldwell, and Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD)
This project will develop physical and digital twins of desalination and related treatment processes operating in several water plants to enable operators to better understand the consequences of large deviations from normal operation.
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Lead), University of California at Los Angeles, and California State University, San Bernardino
Title: Analytics for Causal Analysis and Decision Support Models for Autonomous and Smart Water Treatment
This project will push the frontier of artificial intelligence in water treatment operations by developing autonomous, adaptive, and co-learning water treatment and desalination systems enabled by fundamental process operation building blocks that predict the operational performance of such systems.
- Washington University in St. Louis (Lead), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and WaterTectonics, Inc.
This project will target selenium, a problematic naturally-occurring element that is not easily removed by reverse osmosis (RO), and can contaminate wastewater in many industrial applications, with a novel electrochemical method of particle removal called electrocoagulation.
- University of California at Los Angeles (Lead), National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Yale University, and University of Connecticut
This project will develop new RO membranes that can withstand the ultra-high osmotic pressures created when desalinating concentrated brines.
- University of Connecticut (Lead), The University of Texas at Austin, Argonne National Laboratory, NALA Systems, Inc., ZwitterCo, Inc., and Vortex Engineering LLC
Title: Additive Manufacturing for Customized Membranes
This project advances a breakthrough method for manufacturing thin-film composite membranes using Nano-scale 3D printing that will enable membranes to be created for specific separations needs at low cost.
- New Mexico State University (Lead), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium, Flow-Tech Systems, LLC, EVUS, Inc., El Paso Water, Aqua Membranes Inc., and NGL Energy Partners, LP
This project will rigorously and systematically investigate electromagnetic fields (EMF) that have been shown to suppress the nucleation of “scale-forming” minerals in desalination systems.
- Texas A&M University (Lead), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, WaterTectonics, Inc., KIT Professionals, Inc., Orange County Water District, and CAP Water & Power International, Inc.
This project will develop hybrid iron-iron and iron-carbon electrocoagulation/electro oxidation (EC/EO) systems for pretreating secondary wastewater effluent prior to microfiltration and desalination and improve log10 virus reduction and remove suspended particles in a single step.
- University of California at Los Angeles (Lead), Georgia Institute of Technology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Knoxville Utilities Board, WaterTectonics, Inc., and Southern Company
Title: Enabling Minimal Liquid Discharge through a Modular, Flexible, and Electrified Pretreatment System
This project will develop a combination electrochemical reactor based on electrocoagulation with an immersed filtration system to react and separate problematic contaminants in water in a single modular step prior to desalination.
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Lead), William Marsh Rice University, Auburn University, Stanford University, and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
This project utilizes breakthrough computational techniques to design novel electro-reactive materials that could directly chemically reduce and remove selenium from non-traditional water sources as a pre-treatment step prior to desalination.
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Lead), Georgia Institute of Technology University, ReactWell, LLC, and Tennessee Valley Authority
This project explores a promising family of chemical compounds that could directly bond to selenium atoms prior to RO for efficient removal of this challenging contaminant.
- University of California at Berkeley (Lead), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Colorado School of Mines, Colorado Higher Education Competitive Research Authority (CHECRA), and ZOMA Foundation
This project will design novel cage-like molecules that can be modified to selectively bond to specific contaminants in water, focusing on removal of selenium and PFAS, which are problematic constituents in desalination and water reuse systems.
- University of California at Berkeley (Lead) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
This project will create a novel, low-cost electrochemical process for oxidizing and removing organic contaminants from water suitable for pre-treatment prior to RO in distributed treatment and water reuse environments.
NAWI is a public-private partnership that brings together a world-class team of industry and academic partners to examine the critical technical barriers and research needed to radically lower the cost and energy of desalination. NAWI is led by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with National Energy Technology Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and is funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.