ORNL researchers to use $100 million grant to create new ways to clean water


What if there were an appliance -- maybe in your kitchen -- that could make dirty water drinkable?

It could also help families after natural disasters, where clean water isn't always available. It would also improve global agriculture and health.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is leading the way in research that could make this happen, and it's getting a big grant to help in the effort.

Water flows all over the world--It's vital to our economy, agriculture and health.

Usually, it comes as easily as turning on a tap, but that's not the case for everyone in the United States.

"We need water to be able to meet not just our physical needs, but also our economical needs," said ORNL Scientist Yoram Polsky.

"The current system for producing drinking water relies on being able to get it from more traditional sources that require less treatment," Polsky said. "That's beginning to change in a lot of parts of the country."

"We can't access those easy-to-treat sources of water, so we have to develop technologies that can allow us to treat unconventional sources," Polsky said.

Polsky and other researchers are looking at collecting water like seawater and waste water and making it drinkable and making that process less expensive and time consuming.

To do that, the Department of Energy has given ORNL and other research institutes nationwide a five-year, $100 million grant.

"This is huge," Polsky said.

Treating water is not a simple process, but scientists want to make it simple for you and me.

"What we would be able to do through this research is produce the equivalent of an appliance that was flexible, that was modular, that was automated, that could take any source of water and treat it to the conditions that you want for end use," Polsky said.

He said the results could have a huge effect on the future.

"This research is to pave the way for innovations that give us access to sources of water that we previously wouldn't have considering," Polsky said. "That's really something that has the potential to affect all of us."

ORNL said researchers will create a road map for their research priorities as they move forward here in the first year.

Projects will start soon afterward.

Source: WBIR, by Sean Franklin

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Published October 4, 2019