The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) here has developed a desalination system based on solar heat and light.

Solar energy-based small and community level Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit has been developed for producing safe drinking water, Saly T. Panicker of the Desalination Division of BARC said.

In the RO unit, the feed water is passed through the membrane with the help of a DC (Direct Current) pump connected to the Photovoltaic (PV) panels without any batteries.

The unit can be operated for 9 to 10 hours on a sunny day, which can cater to the drinking and cooking requirements of three to four families at an average rate of five litres per person per day, Panicker said.

“It contains a filter cartridge and a spirally wound RO membrane element,” he said, adding there was no significant variation in the rate of power production from the PV panels.

“Thus, the pump is able to maintain its pace, keeping the rate of drinking water production constant,” Mr. Panicker, who has developed the technology along with scientists K. L. Thalor and P. K. Tiwari, said.

Explaining the system, he said the RO is a pressure driven process, where pure water is continuously drawn from salty water through a semi-permeable membrane.

Highlighting the importance of solar-powered system which will be useful especially in remote areas, Mr. Panicker said integrating desalination with renewable energy sources is also important for addressing the issues related to adverse impacts of climate change.

The source of solar energy is inexhaustible and is free. Also, no harmful gases like nitrogen oxide, mercury, carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide are emitted, he said.

As for cost, he said, “with the improvement in PV efficiencies and the subsidies available, the solar-based desalination system would become very cost effective.”

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