Mining Saltwater with Bacteria


In places like Singapore, where fresh water is scarce, one method to obtain drinking water is to filter out the salt from seawater. The usual process for doing this is known as reverse osmosis. Using membrane filtration technology, the salt is filtered out and chucked back into the sea. But this is an expensive, energy intensive process which is causing environmental damage to our oceans. Research engineer, Damian Palin, says, “The technology in reverse osmosis is reaching a plateau in terms of the amount of energy used versus the fresh water produced. Another drawback is the resulting brine which is produced. This is a super salty solution which is generally pumped back out into the environment with dire consequences.” But Palin has come up with a solution: instead of chucking the brine back into the sea, why not use it as a resource in itself? Palin explains, “I became fascinated by biological precipitation or biomineralization, which is a process where organisms form minerals under low energetic conditions – bacteria can do this as a form of defence on their cell surface and so I began to think about microbally inspired low energy production processes employing this technique.” Video below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *