The Center for Inland Desalination Systems (CIDS) is a center researching technologies and approaches that will maximize the benefits of desalination, while minimizing the input energy and negative environmental impacts. The center builds on a strong foundation of related research already being done by faculty members in geological sciences, chemistry and civil engineering. CIDS was started by funding from a combination of a $2 million grant from the state of Texas through its Emerging Technology Fund and $2 million from The University of Texas System and is sustained by funds raised by UTEP sponsored projects.
CIDS researchers are primarily focused on inland desalination issues such as researching and developing high recovery desalination processes and recovering useful products from desalination waste streams.
Electrodialysis (ED) is an electrically driven membrane process that can remove salt from dilute solutions and raise the concentration to levels no attainable by RO. CIDS has strong capabilities in ED technology unmatched by any other university in the USA. CIDS researchers work on the cutting edge of novel applications for ED.
Reverse osmosis (RO) utilizes a membrane that is permeable to water but substantially impermeable to salt. Pressure applied to the salty water must overcome the natural osmotic forces that would transport water from the dilute to the concentrated salt solution. RO is a rather simple process – just pump the salty at sufficient pressure to push the water through the membrane – but RO has limitations in the amount of water that can be recovered. Nanofiltration (NF) is similar to RO, but NF membranes have higher permeability for both water and salt and operate with lower applied pressure than RO. CIDS owns several pilot plants that allow demonstration of RO and NF at flow rates up to 40 gallons per minute.
The adoption of desalination in inland communities can be limited by the availability of cost effective concentrate management strategies. High recovery techniques allow for the maximum output from desalination plants with a small (or no) waste stream.
The ZDD process utilizes a variant of ED called electrodialysis metathesis (EDM) to deal with groundwater that is difficult to treat by conventional desalination. UTEP is the only university in the world that has the capability to practice EDM technology.
The CERROTM process (inventor is Dr. Anthony Tarquin) stands for concentrate enhanced recovery reverse osmosis. This technology operates is a single-pass, multi-membrane, batch-treatment system with periodic flushing. CERRO has been tested at the pilot scale in El Paso, Texas, and in Alamogordo, New Mexico, as part of research sponsored by Reclamation (DWPR), WateReuse, and the Texas Water Development Board. El Paso Water Utilities was recently awarded a WaterSMART grant to evaluate 70 gpm CERRO systems for wellhead RO systems
Desalination processes like RO tend to remove all contaminants from the water at about the same rate. However, often there is a need to remove special contaminants such as arsenic and ammonia without removing other less objectionable materials from the water. The CIDS group has expertise in the use of special adsorbents for the removal of low-level contaminants from water. CIDS also has expertise in the recovery of regenerant salts from ion-exchange resins used in the removal of contaminants from water.
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