Most desalination plants in the world use reverse osmosis and indeed demand high amounts of energy to function, but new systems are in development that eliminate some of these demands. Theoretically minimum amount of energy required to desalinate 1 cubic meter of water is .86 kWh. In actuality, most plants demand five to 26 times that much energy to actually function. One of the other issues is what to do with the extremely salty water leftover, which would need to be safely disposed of without harming the environment.
As an effort to utilize desalination more efficiently, a number of big name companies including IBM are working on a solar and nano-membrane based process for desalination. The nanomaterial will help the salt and H2O chemically separate.The solar power provides a renewable energy source for the process, not to mention the desalination plants tend to be in hot, sunny places. These new efforts are essential in a world of growing population where we are increasingly concerned about access to fresh water.
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