A cost-effective steam-driven RO plant for brackish groundwater

A. Mudgal, P.A. Davies*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Desalination is a costly means of providing freshwater. Most desalination plants use either reverse osmosis (RO) or thermal distillation. Both processes have drawbacks: RO is efficient but uses expensive electrical energy; thermal distillation is inefficient but uses less expensive thermal energy. This work aims to provide an efficient RO plant that uses thermal energy. A steam-Rankine cycle has been designed to drive mechanically a batch-RO system that achieves high recovery, without the high energy penalty typically incurred in a continuous-RO system. The steam may be generated by solar panels, biomass boilers, or as an industrial by-product. A novel mechanical arrangement has been designed for low cost, and a steam-jacketed arrangement has been designed for isothermal expansion and improved thermodynamic efficiency. Based on detailed heat transfer and cost calculations, a gain output ratio of 69-162 is predicted, enabling water to be treated at a cost of 71 Indian Rupees/m3 at small scale. Costs will reduce with scale-up. Plants may be designed for a wide range of outputs, from 5 m3/day, up to commercial versions producing 300 m3/day of clean water from brackish groundwater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-177
Number of pages11
Early online date24 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • biomass
  • gain output ratio
  • Rankine cycle
  • recovery ratio
  • reverse osmosis
  • solar


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