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Local desalinization research could change the future of California facilities

City of Santa Barbara

The face of California desalinization may change in the next decade thanks to technology being developed locally.

Many think desalinization, the process of removing salt from seawater, is the solution to California's water needs. 

However, the process raises some concerns from environmental groups and others who say the process is too energy intensive and can be harmful to the ocean and its critters.

Recently, a Cal Poly Professor has been developing a revolutionary method of desalinization.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Shanju Zhang just received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to improve desalinization methods using state of the art nanotechnology.

Professor Zhang wants to use printed membranes, which move seawater a million times faster than current desalinization methods that utilize porous filters.

Technology currently employed in the solar field inspired Zhang's research.

"We already use this printing technique to make solar cells," Zhang said. "We were very successful in that project, so it makes me think about this new technique for water desalinization."

The technology not only aims to increase the efficiency of desalinization, but would also decrease the size of current facilities.  

"We can significantly reduce the energy cost of water desalinization," Zhang said. "Also this new technology uses a very small space for desalinization plants."

Professor Zhang estimates it will take about five to 10 years to bring this technology to California facilities. 

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