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UC Solar Awarded $1.1M Grant to Build Solar-Powered Water Purification Systems

July 16, 2018

UC Solar received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to develop solar-thermal desalination technologies that reduce the cost of creating fresh water from otherwise unusable waters such as seawater, brackish water and polluted water.

UC Solar Director Professor Roland Winston will lead a team that includes professors Gerardo Diaz and James Palko, focused on developing low-cost, portable technologies that collect and store solar-thermal energy that can be used to power water-purification systems.

The project was one of 14 selected to receive SETO funding as part of an effort to reduce the cost of solar-thermal desalination and help the technology to reach new markets, including rural areas not connected to the electrical grid.

Solar-thermal desalination involves capturing and concentrating sunlight and converting it into heat to evaporate salty or polluted waters. The vapor is captured and cooled back into liquid. Salts and other impurities do not generally travel with water vapor, so the water that emerges after cooling is clean and can be used in everyday applications such as agriculture and industry or integrated into municipal water systems.