The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has opened a pilot plant in Banyo Queensland to study the removal of salts from bore water and industrial wastewater.
QUT researchers from the Institute for Future Environments have been working with the Japanese chemical conglomerate Asahi Kasei for three years on the technology, using solar energy or low-grade waste heat produced by industry to remove dissolved salts from water samples.
QUT Science and Engineering Professor Graeme Millar is heading the research team to further develop the system using Asahi Kasei membranes.
Through a process called membrane distillation, the pilot plant will have the ability to process 1000 litres of pure drinking water each day.
According to Dr Millar, one of the advantages of the system is that it can use industrial waste heat, which is heat produced as a byproduct, to distil the water through membranes.
Dr Millar said future applications of the new technology include treatment of coal seam gas associated water, bore water in remote communities and the reverse osmosis of brine and seawater.
“Agriculture is the major consumer of freshwater resources in Australia,” Dr Millar said.
“Consequently there is a need to develop means to use impaired water resources such as coal seam gas associated water for irrigation purposes.”
Professor Millar said the planned design for a commercial module using the system would be able to convert 1 million litres a day of water — with uses ranging from installations at mining, agricultural and industrial sites and portable solar-powered units that could be used by emergency services in the wake of natural disasters.
“It offers low-cost water treatment for remote communities,” Dr Millar said.
“It’s about taking those brackish waters and making them drinkable.”