New membrane technology could transform some factory chimneys into water production plants.
Giant factories are associated with a lot of bad stuff: air pollution, water contamination, massive carbon footprints. Aside from tearing them down or instituting a complete LEED remodel (good luck with that!), it's hard to see how they could possibly make an environmentally-friendly contribution. Until now.
Field tests and ten years of preliminary research have shown that in the future these plants could change from water consumers to water producers.
According to KEMA, a global energy consulting and research firm, vast amounts of high-grade water can be recovered from flue gases of certain factory chimneys using new membrane capture technology. The volume of water that could be recovered is so large that industrial plants in arid areas could eventually make a valuable contribution to the world's water shortage.
For the past ten years, KEMA has overseen research and testing of this technology in collaboration with the European Membrane Institute at the University of Twente and a number of Dutch utilities. The result is a significantly improved gas separation membrane with which water vapor can be captured on a large scale.
Tests in industrial plants in the Netherlands and Germany have demonstrated that at least 40 percent of the water in the flue gases can be recovered with the new membrane technology. Beforehand, researchers counted on a recovery of 20 percent. This means that an average power plant of 400 megawatts can supply twice as much water as it needs for steam generation. The amount of water saved, equals the yearly consumption of about 3,500 Western households or about 9,500 African households.
KEMA also claims that the quality of the recycled water is so high that it can be employed not only for deminarilized water use for industry but also for consumption purposes.
Image Credit: Flickr - basheertome