Concentrated Solar Distillation as a Means to Purify Saline/Brackish Water

EPA Grant Number: SU834294
Title: Concentrated Solar Distillation as a Means to Purify Saline/Brackish Water
Investigators: Matsumoto, Mark , Javadinajjar, Parham , Johnson, John , Salinas, Christopher , Tam, Kawai , West, Elizha
Current Investigators: Matsumoto, Mark , Chen, Alexander , Chen, Luke , Chen, Wesley , Johnson, John , Salinas, Christopher , Tam, Kawai , West, Elizha
Institution: University of California - Riverside
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2010
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , P3 Awards , Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Water


Solar energy can be used in producing desalinated water. However, the process is slow and requires large solar collection areas to desalinate a relatively small amount of water. Currently solar distillation is viable for small-scale use generally in a batch process form. By concentrating the solar energy via a Fresnel lens we are seeking to develop a more cost effective and efficient desalination/treatment method for potable water production. We believe that by concentrating solar energy, a significant increase in efficiency can be achieved, substantially increasing production rate and reducing per unit volume cost of production.


Our approach is to study basic design parameters of a distillation apparatus using a renewable energy source. We are comparing our design to the basin-solar stills used in the El Paso Solar Energy Association (EPSEA) study because the stills used represent the simplest design and lowest cost available. These stills produced approximately 4 gallons/day of distilled water. Also important to consider is that basin-stills do not insulate against heat loss. This is because a basin still requires a large window through which to input heat. A benefit of our design is that the boiler can be insulated at all points except for a small portion left open to receive the focused sunlight. Our design calls for a modest increase in complexity. This is mainly due to having multiple components (separate solar collector, boiler, and condenser). The trade off is that for a modest increase in complexity can we achieve a substantial increase in productivity.

Expected Results:

We expect that our design will achieve a greater potable water production rate than that of the solar basin still. We also expect that our design will be able to treat various types of un-drinkable water: from brackish all the way to sea water. Through our research and experiments, we intend to illustrate that using a Fresnel lens to concentrate solar energy for the purpose of distillation is a viable and implementable resource with the capabilities of supplying small, rural communities that have limited access to drinking water with potable water.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 4 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Solar distillation, Fresnel lens, renewable energy, drinkable water, concentrated solar energy, solar collector, basin solar still,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report