Healthy Economy Healthy People

Drinking Water from the Sea

Modular technology could replace energy-hungry desalination

When Oregon State University-Cascades researcher Bahman Abbasi sees industrial-scale, fossil-fuel powered water desalination, he envisions an energy-efficient alternative: portable systems that can be set up where needed and powered by a range of heat sources, including the sun. Abbasi leads a multi-university team taking an innovative approach to desalination as part of a $21 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program.

Bahman Abbasi, OSU-Cascades

“We need to make water production very modular and portable, so it’s closer to the point of consumption,” he told Engineering Out Loud, a podcast produced by the OSU College of Engineering.

The assistant professor of mechanical engineering worked as an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton and a technical adviser to DOE before joining OSU-Cascades in Bend in 2017. “Fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource in many regions around the globe,” says Abbasi. “Our goal is to develop a transportable and off-grid desalination system that can be used along coastlines, other bodies of water, or in conjunction with existing desalination plants to deliver fresh drinking water to water-stressed communities, particularly those most in need.”

The team includes researchers at Michigan State University, the University of Maryland and the University of Nevada-Reno. Undergraduate students in the energy systems engineering program at OSU-Cascades contributed to the design of the proposed system.

By Nick Houtman

Nick Houtman is director of research communications at OSU and edits Terra, a world of research and creativity at Oregon State University. He has experience in weekly and daily print journalism and university science writing. A native Californian, he lived in Wisconsin and Maine before arriving in Corvallis in 2005.