Dr Marina Freire-Gormaly of the University of Toronto works in the area where energy systems and water systems intersect. Using her engineering expertise, she is developing efficient solar-powered reverse osmosis water purification technology. Lack of access to clean drinking water is a massive problem in the Third World, yet at the same time as water-challenged areas experience water scarcity, those same areas often have a high potential for solar power adoption in that they are often bathed in strong sunlight. From that standpoint it makes sense to use solar power to drive reverse osmosis water purification systems in these settings.
A challenge arises in minimizing costs while maintaining filtration efficiency. The most cost-effective solar design would run intermittently, with no battery storage. However, this means of cost reduction on the solar power side leads to potential problems on the water purification side, as the reverse osmosis systems contemplated are subject to membrane fouling under these conditions of intermittent operation.
Dr Marina Freire-Gormaly has focused on creating reverse osmosis systems that minimize the problem of fouling of filter membranes. The goal of developing a solar powered power systems that work successfully in conjunction with reliable reverse osmosis systems seems to have been achieved.
Of course, why wouldn't sailors see in a solution to a Third World Problem a solution to a First World problem? Salt water cruising sailors have been challenged since the beginning of navigation with the difficulties of drinking water storage and transport. According to Wikipedia, "During the "Age of Exploration" the ports of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Cádiz were the starting points for many of the voyages to the New World and the East Indies, including some of the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan. On many of these voyages, stocking up on ample supplies of the area's wine was considered a necessity. Christopher Columbus almost certainly had Sherry with him when he made some of his voyages to America which makes Sherry, in all likelihood, the first wine brought to the New World. For Magellan's voyage 594,790 maravedis were spent on wine compared to 566,684 maravedis on all the ships's armaments and men's weapons.."
Solar powered reverse osmosis might be just the ticket to eliminating either excessive booze or heavy and potentially foul drinking water tanks on voyages.
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