Desalination Sustains Modern Life in the Desert, But it is Costly

As Director of the Water Research Center (WRC), Professor Nidal Hilal researches the challenge of solving water scarcity in the  Arabian Gulf. Hilal works with membrane technologies capable of reverse osmosis desalination, a process whereby seawater is pumped through a thin polymeric film that separates fresh water from salty feed. The technology requires less energy to desalinate seawater than the traditional use of thermal desalination, which boils water to separate H2O from salts.

However, membranes tend to get soiled, and with time, flux through the membrane is reduced and its efficiency drops. The WRC are working on a number of membranes and desalination technologies that will address these challenges. The goal is to make technological advances that would allow desalination plants in the Arabian Gulf to meet new wastewater regulations. The lab will continue to conduct tests on these membranes to improve their performance, and it will begin scaling up production to test the prototypes in industrial conditions to prove their efficacy.