Desalination technology increases naval capabilities

Since its inception, the EUWP program has produced advances in desalinization capability. The first generation EUWP technology demonstrator was designed as a deployable high water production unit more easily transported by the military and used for a variety of missions.

In fact, the EUWP Gen 1 demonstrator has been used in a number of humanitarian missions. In 2005, it was deployed in support of the Navy's response to Hurricane Katrina where it delivered safe drinking water to Gulf Coast residents being treated at a hospital in Biloxi, Miss. In this case, the EUWP Gen 1 was trucked in and set up on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately four blocks from the hospital. The Gen 1 unit desalted and purified about 100,000 gallons of water per day from the turbid Gulf of Mexico, replacing the daily caravan of 18 tankers needed to keep the hospital running.

The second generation EUWP Gen II technology demonstrator, built with shipboard constraints imposed on the design, is a larger, more stationary demonstration unit, and has potential for use by isolated communities. It has been tested successfully at the Seawater Desalination Test Facility at the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center in Port Hueneme, Calif.

Armistead anticipates increased capabilities from the newer demonstration unit. "From current Navy desalination systems we only get 20 percent product water," he said. "That means for 1,000 gallons of feed water, we would get only 200 gallons product water. These new systems will likely double that."

Michelle Chapman, a physical scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is a member of the ONR team managing the research program. She highlighted the program's success by noting its benefits to the public at large. "Several of the projects we have funded have turned into patents for commercially available products and processes that are available for use in water desalination systems for communities where freshwater sources are not available," Chapman said.

Based on the successes in the EUWP program, the Advanced Shipboard Desalination, Future Naval Capability Program will begin in 2010. Navy Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division, Ship Systems Engineering Station (NSWCCD-SSES), is a partner in this effort. According to Dave Nordham, a NSWCCD-SSES mechanical engineer, "Any sort of technology advancements we find for ships are directly applicable ashore and can be utilized by ever-increasing drought ridden areas."

Desalinization. Nations like Israel and the United Arab Emirates already depend on it. Cities around the United States are either considering the possibility, or are already doing it, and US Navy's ships rely on it. So, in 2004, the Office of Naval Research decided to focus on improving the desalinization process.

(Photo Credit: US Navy)

The Office of Naval Research second generation Expeditionary Unit Water Purification demonstrator operating at the US Navy Seawater Desalination Test Facility located in Port Hueneme, Calif., in an attempt to verify and validate the utility of their emerging state-of-the-art water purification system's ability to reduce the domestic cost per gallon to desalinate water and provide other alternative solutions in water conservation.

(Photo Credit: US Navy Photograph by Dee Finning)

Source: Office of Naval Research