Toward efficient high-pressure desalination

Toward efficient high-pressure desalination

The desalination industry, a critical source of potable water in many arid regions, generated more than $13 billion last year and is expected to double within a decade. Most desalination plants today use a process called reverse osmosis (RO), which forces water through huge rolls of membranes, leaving the salt behind. One of the most expensive operational challenges for such plants is the fouling of these membranes by microorganisms.

Now, research from MIT suggests a different approach to reducing the rate of fouling and thus improving the efficiency of RO plants.

The prevailing idea in the industry has been that the high pressure required by RO is responsible for the relatively high rate of fouling, compared to other systems such as forward osmosis. But the MIT study shows that this is not the case, a finding that opens up new approaches to reducing fouling in RO. The research, by Emily Tow ’12, SM ’14, PhD ’17 and MIT Professor John H. Lienhard V, was recently published in the Journal of Membrane Science and presented at the 2017 AMTA/AWWA Membrane Technology Conference, where it received the Student Best Paper Award.

Many experts believe that the high pressure in an RO system compresses the microbial mats that grow on the membranes, and that this “compaction” makes the growth much harder to remove. In contrast, in low-pressure forward osmosis (FO) systems, which are less energy-efficient but more fouling-resistant, the supposedly looser mat is thought to be easier to clean off.

However, these microbial mats are generally full of water, which does not compress under RO pressures, so “there is no good reason why high pressure should worsen fouling,” Tow says. She compares the microbes to a scuba diver: “There’s a lot of pressure at the bottom of the ocean, but it doesn’t make you stick to the seafloor.” But if pressure doesn’t matter, and the flow rates through FO and RO systems are similar, what could account for the disparity in fouling resistance?

Tow, who is now an ITRI-Rosenfeld Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and will be a professor of mechanical engineering at Olin College next year, devised a new approach to isolating the effects of pressure from those of other differences between FO and RO. Her method involves operating an FO system, which uses osmosis to pull water through membranes, at a range of pressures up to 40 atmospheres.

“We measured fouling rates and cleaning outcomes, and even recorded video of the membranes being cleaned at various pressures, and we found no effect of pressure,” she says. Many highly cited papers claimed that pressure was the issue, but previous experiments also varied the concentration of the solution on the back side of the membrane when varying pressure. By raising the pressure on both sides of an FO system without changing anything else, the MIT study revealed that pressure alone does not exacerbate fouling or impede cleaning.

Now that high pressure — which is essential for RO to work — is shown not to affect fouling, researchers should look for other reasons that processes like FO are more fouling-resistant and see if they can be applied to RO, Tow says.

“The observation that forward osmosis membranes are easier to clean is fairly robust,” says Lienhard, who is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food and director of the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy and of the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab. But the new study shows that FO’s fouling resistance “is not intrinsic to its low pressure. The difference must be related to other factors that could potentially be transferrable to RO. It needs to be understood,” he says.

“The hope is that with further work, this could make it easier to clean RO membranes,” he says. Currently, mitigating membrane fouling is a major part of non-energy operating expenses of an RO plant, which account for about a quarter of the cost of desalinated water. Any improvement in fouling resistance could significantly impact water cost.

It’s possible that the difference in how fouling affects RO and FO membranes has to do with the membrane’s support layer, which is the backing on the thin, salt-filtering layer. In FO, interactions between the support layer and the concentrated solution it touches influence the pattern of water flow through the membrane, which dictates the way foulants build up on the membrane surface, Tow says. Future RO membranes could be designed so that fouling occurs in a pattern similar to that of FO, or even a new pattern optimized for easy cleaning.

Improving the ability to clean used membranes could affect not only water cost but also the reliability of desalination plants, Lienhard points out. “Shutdowns because of an algal bloom can sometimes intererupt the supply of water for days or weeks on end,” he says. Understanding the fundamentals of fouling, including the effect of pressure, enables development of more targeted fouling mitigation methods.

This research “debunks the broadly held belief that pressure causes or complicates fouling in reverse osmosis systems, and the corresponding belief that lack of pressure reduces fouling in forward osmosis systems,” says Richard L. Stover, director of the International Desalination Association, who was not involved in this work. The new study, he says, “identifies assumptions that biased or limited the interpretation of test data in [earlier] studies and contributes new experimental data that clearly and definitively prove its thesis.”

The new mechanisms the researchers propose “qualitatively explain the fouling resistance observed in FO systems, providing clear direction and outstanding context for future research,” Stover says. “Overall, the paper represents a significant contribution to the broader understanding of membrane fouling mechanisms and their possible abatement. Simply put, it is a fine piece of work.”

The work was supported by the Martin Fellowship for Sustainability, the National Science Foundation, and the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy at MIT and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

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Chardonnay plays an important role in Washington

Chardonnay plays an important role in Washington
Chardonnay is an important wine grape variety in Washington state.

Chardonnay is an important wine grape variety in the Pacific Northwest. This sign is in Cold Creek Vineyard in Washington’s Columbia Valley. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Chardonnay has been at or near the top of the heap in Washington wine country for the better part of 30 years. But how did it get to that position?

The ubiquitous white wine grape’s origins in Washington state are somewhat murky.

According to The Wine Project, Ron Irvine’s superb history of the Washington wine industry, the grape arrived in either 1963 or 1964. Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser indicates the grape arrived from the University of California-Davis in 1964. But elsewhere in Irvine’s book, it is noted that the stakeholders for Associated Vintners planted Chardonnay – along with several other varieties – in 1963 on Harrison Hill near Sunnyside.

Regardless of which year Chardonnay showed up in Washington, by 1968 only 9 acres were planted in the state, according to records provided by Wade Wolfe of Thurston Wolfe Winery from when he worked at Chateau Ste. Michelle in the 1970s.

In 1968, Al Newhouse planted Chardonnay on his property at the base of Snipes Mountain near Sunnyside. Newhouse, who would later purchase the Harrison Hill vineyard from William B. Bridgman’s family, planted those grapes for Seneca Foods Corp., which was preparing to launch a Washington winery called Boordy Vineyards in Prosser. But by the time the vines began to bear fruit, Seneca no longer wanted the grapes, so Newhouse sold them to a winery in Canada for four or five years, said his grandson, Todd Newhouse.

After that, Associated Vintners, which later became Columbia Winery, contracted the grapes until Chateau Ste. Michelle picked up the contract in the late 1970s. Ste. Michelle purchased the grapes until 2003. The vineyard became badly injured in the epic 1996 freeze that damaged nearly half the vines in Washington’s Columbia Valley. Todd Newhouse eventually pulled out the vines and replanted with Concords.

“We knew it was an undesirable spot,” Todd Newhouse told Great Northwest Wine. “When the state had way too much Chardonnay in 2001 and 2002, that was when one of the contracts came up and didn’t get renewed. We knew it was time for them to go.”

But that 1968 block lives on. In 1979, Al Newhouse wanted to plant more Chardonnay but couldn’t get any plant material.

“It was a last-minute decision,” Todd Newhouse said. “Nobody had any plants.”

So he pruned his 1968 vines and, without using rooting hormone or anything else, simply stuck the sticks in the soil on steep, rocky slopes. Everyone in the industry, including experts at WSU in Prosser, told Newhouse he was crazy and it wouldn’t work. Yet, 95 percent of those vines lived, and that section of his vineyard, now dubbed the “Water Tower Block,” is the best Chardonnay block at Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain.

“Nobody thought anything would grow in those rocks,” Todd Newhouse said.

By 1972, Washington had 127 acres of Chardonnay planted. That fell to 112 acres in 1974 but went back up to 194 by 1978. That same year, Chateau Ste. Michelle began planting wine grapes around the Horse Heaven Hills community of Paterson at the future site of Columbia Crest. The company established vineyards at the rate of 500 acres per year, and Wolfe, who oversaw viticultural operations for the company at the time, said at least a few circles were planted to Chardonnay.

Thanks to this, Washington Chardonnay plantings grew to 962 acres by 1982.

By 1985, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to track Washington wine grape harvest information, including tons crushed and prices per ton. That vintage, a spring frost damaged many vineyards, particularly white wine grapes. Despite that, Washington crushed 2,050 tons of Chardonnay that year, making it the state’s No. 2 grape behind Riesling’s 6,400 tons.

With vineyards recovered from the 1985 frost damage, Washington Chardonnay tonnage nearly doubled in 1986. Then it doubled again in 1987 to 7,500 tons. It and all other varieties dipped in 1991 because of severe winter damage, then Chardonnay cruised above 10,000 tons in 1992 for the first time.

Here are 10 examples of Washington Chardonnay we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at you’re favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.

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Abeja 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $52

Abeja 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $52

The Harrisons’ holdings in the Walla Walla Valley include Heather Hill Vineyard, which features Cabernet Sauvignon, but their much larger Columbia Valley expression of Cab pulls from many of the Washington’s oldest and most exciting sites such as Bacchus, Dionysus and Weinbau near the Columbia River, Kiona’s Heart of the Hill, Ciel de Cheval and Scooteney Flats on Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills plantings Destiny Ridge and Gunselman Bench. This bottling is a legacy of longtime winemaker John Abbott, who handed the Abeja reins off to Daniel and Amy Wampfler in 2016. It’s an elegant Cabernet that opens with aromas of cherries, cranberry and clove, with a hint of rose petal. The palate is equally graceful, with velvety tannins and subtle barrel influence. The finish is bright and lingers with cherry, nutmeg and cardamom. This earned a gold medal at the 2017 Washington State Wine Competition in June, and in October it merited a double gold at the exclusive 2017 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition.

Rating: Outstanding!

Production: 2,501 cases

Alcohol: 14.8%

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OCFA Station 39 Open House

OCFA Station 39 Open House

Event date: October 14, 2017
Event Time: 09:00 AM – 02:00 PM
Location:
24241 Avila Road
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Description:
On Saturday, October 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the Orange County Fire Authority will be hosting their annual Open House during National Fire Protection Week (October 8-14). The station open houses are designed to bring fire prevention awareness to communities and give families an opportunity to meet and greet their local firefighters, tour their local fire stations, and hear about the ways they can stay safe. Laguna Niguel Station 39 is located at 24241 Avila Road.

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Cut For The Cause: Russian River Offers Chance to Cut Pliny the Younger Line

Cut For The Cause: Russian River Offers Chance to Cut Pliny the Younger Line

This week, CraftBeer.com updated readers on some of the breweries impacted by the devastating fires raging in the California counties of Napa and Sonoma. One company, Russian River Brewing, had been spared of damage, but sadly some of Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo’s employees lost everything in a blaze that has now claimed more than 30 lives and thousands of homes in Russian River’s town of Santa Rosa. The Cilurzos remained on-call for an evacuation notice, despite having a skeleton crew at their pub on Tuesday and having made a promise to announce a relief effort for those who want to help. Today, Russian River announced that effort.

The award-winning brewery is offering an incentive to those who donate to the King Ridge Foundation, part of the Sonoma County Fire Relief Fund. While anyone can donate directly to the cause, Russian River announced through its Sonoma Proud Brand page that for every $25 donated to the cause, beer fans “will have one chance to win line-cutting privileges to Russian River Brewing Company’s 2018 Pliny the Younger release between February 2nd and 15th of 2018. All donors have a chance to win line-cutting privileges for two people, each day of the 14-day release.”

Donate Now: Cut For The Cause

Pliny the Younger is a renowned triple IPA brewed annually. The popularity of the beer makes visiting Russian River Brewing for a chance to try the beer fresh a bucket-list trek for beer lovers. The opportunity to cut the line to try Younger is a unique opportunity for a drastically dire cause.

Dry winds are expected to return to the area this weekend, taxing fire crews and putting more lives and property in peril. It will take a lot to support this community in its recovery. Please join the effort with Russian River and perhaps gain the chance to support the area again by returning for Russian River’s Pliny the Younger release in February.

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Hydrogel that extracts uranium from water wins MADMEC

Hydrogel that extracts uranium from water wins MADMEC

An inexpensive hydrogel that can extract uranium from water to provide more fuel for nuclear power plants took home the grand prize from this year’s MADMEC competition on Oct. 10.

A team of MIT materials science and engineering students, named A Salt Solution, won $10,000 for a prototype of a simple, low-cost hydrogel that can be incorporated into water desalination plants or placed directly into bodies of water. Uranium then accumulates on the hydrogel’s surface for extraction.

Similar hydrogels — which are chains of hydrophilic polymer chains — have been proposed for uranium mining in seawater. But the team tweaked a certain polymer that can be purchased at industrial scales for much lower costs.

“Because it’s simple to make, and [based on an already] well-developed technology with a slight modification, it’s an economically feasible material that can passively collect uranium from water,” team member Cynthia Lo told MIT News.

Two other teams split the second and third place prizes of $7,000 and $5,000: DUMBLEDORE, which is developing an automated wrinkling-and-unwrinkling coating for ships that staves off bacteria and other organisms more efficiently and with less pollution than other methods; and Geoworks, which is developing porous bricks made of geopolymers (minerals that are mixed and gel together to form solid materials) that can insulate buildings at lower cost and with greater efficiency than traditional insulating materials.

The fourth competing team, Illumination, developed a lower-cost material for generating blue light, which can be used for lighting and other applications.

Uranium from the sea

Uranium, which is mined from the ground, is used as fuel in nuclear power, one of the most efficient forms of energy. But there’s about 4 billion tons of uranium in seawater, compared to 10 million tons on land. In fact, extracting all the ocean’s uranium could in theory provide enough of the material to power major cities around the globe for thousands of years.

A Salt Solution came up with their idea while conceptualizing a material that could be attached to sea coral to collect uranium. But that was too expensive and complex to complete for the competition. To keep things cost-effective, the team modified a common polymer gel used for other purposes, by incorporating molecules that attract uranium.

“It looks a little complicated, but it’s pretty simple,” team member William “Robin” Lindemann said during the team’s winning presentation, pointing to a projection of the polymer’s chemical makeup. “You can probably [make] it in your basement.”

One idea is to implement a system that contains plates of the hydrogel into water desalination plants, where seawater goes through reverse osmosis to produce fresh water and waste brine. “This brine is what we want to target, because it [has a] higher concentration of uranium,” team member Jasmine Harris said.

Before disposal, the brine could flow over the hydrogel plates for uranium extraction. Uranium can also be easily washed off the hydrogel, so the gel can be reused more than a dozen times before it becomes economically infeasible.

Another idea is to simply float the hydrogel on a buoy or directly in bodies of water. “You can probably just put this gel in a cheesecloth bag and let it float [in water], and a couple weeks later you’d end up with a bunch of uranium stuck to it,” Lindemann told MIT News.

With the prize money, the team plans to further develop the technology and potentially publish a paper on their work.

Student-built prototypes

The annual MADMEC competition is hosted by MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) and sponsored by Saint-Gobain and Dow Chemical.

For the finale, four MIT student teams delivered oral and poster presentations explaining the inventions they’d built over the summer to solve various sustainability issues. Starting in June, MADMEC hosts several events that walk the competitors through development milestones, such as feasibility studies and refining prototypes. All teams (usually around 10) receive $1,000 to prototype, and the winners of three minicontests win an additional $500 each.

The contest challenges students to build prototypes of technologies that improve sustainability in energy, transportation, infrastructure, and other sectors. “Really the big picture of the contest is about giving students a chance to develop their own ideas and execute prototypes outside of their normal classwork or research,” Mike Tarkanian, a senior lecturer in DMSE and competition organizer, said in his opening remarks.

For the winning team, the MADMEC competition certainly provided a platform for some rapid prototyping. “I’ve never had to pull something like this together so quickly,” Lindemann told MIT News. “And the competition drove us to a better end result.”

Contest judges were MIT faculty and alumni from DMSE, and representatives from the contest’s sponsoring companies.

Tarkanian also noted that several former MADMEC competitors have launched companies based on their MADMEC inventions. Clear Motion (formally Levant Power), was the third-place winner at the first MADMEC in 2007 and went on to raise $130 million to develop shock absorbers that improve vehicle handling while generating electricity to improve overall efficiency. Embr Labs, winner of the 2013 competition, just sold nearly half a million dollars’ worth of preorders for its commercial thermoelectric wristband that heats and cools the body.

“What you will see [during the finale] are often early-stage technologies that grow and get bigger and change over time, and turn into real products,” Tarkanian said.

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Self Defense Class

Self Defense Class

Event date: October 13, 2017
Event Time: 06:30 PM – 08:30 PM
Location:
24602 Aliso Creek Road
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Description:
All 6th to 12th graders are invited to learn strategies to reduce and prevent victimization and promote self-confidence. The GET SAFE Female Empowerment Initiative educates females on the causes and effects of violent behavior and provides them with the tools to help stop the “cycle of violence” before it starts. Males are also invited to learn self-defense techniques for personal safety. Participants must pre-register by Tuesday, October 10 at 5pm.

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Roughtail Brewing Hosts First Oklahoma AHA Rally

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Roughtail Brewing Company and the American Homebrewers Association are partnering together to bring the first AHA Rally to Oklahoma on November 11. Oklahoma homebrewers are invited to the brewery for the afternoon to enjoy Roughtail beer, as well as take home 5 gallons of wort to ferment at Find a Craft Breweryhome. Attendees will also take home free gifts and prizes from the AHA and Roughtail.

AHA Rallies are a great time and FREE to AHA members. Rallies are also a great way to meet other beer enthusiasts and homebrewers in your area.

Look for a Rally near you and be sure to RSVP. Non-members may join the AHA onsite at a discounted rate to attend.

For more information, check out the AHA Rally FAQ.

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Lord Hobo Brewing Company Expands

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Massachusetts-based Lord Hobo Brewing Co. (LHBCo.) today announced plans to expand into New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. The company has appointed Hunterdon Brewing Co. for state-wide sales in New Jersey, and Gretz Beer and Penn Beer for distribution throughout Philadelphia and Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“Our ragging fans in PA and NJ have been rallying for our beers for quite some time and we’re amped toFind a Craft Brewery finally be there,” says Lord Hobo’s Founder and CEO, Daniel Lanigan. We’re jamming out to Boys II Men and Bruce Springsteen here this week as we continue our penetration outside of our home market of New England and get down with the enthusiastic beer drinkers of NJ and PA. We’ve found great, capable partners in Hunterdon, Gretz and Penn Beer, these markets are significant opportunities that support our growth plans.”

The addition of these territories takes LHBCo.’s distribution footprint to 14 states.  To supply new and current markets with fresh product, LHBCo. continues to invest in added cellar capacity, by the completion of 2017, the brewery will have installed eight 160-barrel fermentation tanks, brite tanks and a rotary canning line.

Cans and draft of LHBCo’s core styles including Boomsauce IPA, Hobo Life Session IPA, and Glorious Galaxy Pale Ale will be available in New Jersey beginning October 10th, 2017 and expanding into Eastern Pennsylvania October 16th. Launch Events will be posted on the breweries website www.lordhobobrewing.com and social media pages @LordHoboBrewing.

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