Okeanos was formed in 2010 to develop a next-generation, ultra-efficient desalination microtechnology to address our planets chronic and increasingly alarming fresh water shortages. Our WaterChipTM platform represents a ¡§solid-state¡¨ alternative to present-day approaches for creating fresh water from seawater and brackish aquifer sources.
A problem with multiple layers, the lack of fresh water hinders economic development, devastates human health, leads to environmental degradation and creates political instability. Over 80% of the morbidity and 30% of all deaths among half of the world¡¦s inhabitants are the direct result of chronic fresh water shortages and lack of access to fresh water. In the developed world, we tend to take fresh water for granted but rapidly expanding populations and depletion of non-renewable fresh water sources are creating chronic drought conditions, rising food prices and political turmoil. Presently, we are already spending 5% of our dirty grid energy draining, cleaning and transporting fresh aquifer waters. The US Department of Defense projects that by 2050, this percentage could top 20% and that over 1/3rd of the globe could be embroiled in wars ultimately rooted in access/control of fresh water resources.
Though fresh water sources are non-renewable and rapidly dwindling, underground saline and oceanic waters (impaired sources) are vast, renewable and virtually limitless. Desalination is therefore the most viable solution to our developing global water crisis. To transform impaired waters into fresh, modern desalination technologies use a handful of energy-greedy processes which are ultimately dependent on the combustion of fossil fuels to create extreme hydraulic pressures, massive heat sources or extreme electrical currents. Operating efficiencies are low and costs are impractical, with high energy requirements tethering these technologies to pre-existing energy and water distribution infrastructures via centralized water production (utility) models. Neither the developed nor the developing world can afford this kind of water production, yet we keep building new reverse osmosis desalination plants because the needs are so acute.
Okeanos Technologies was founded on the belief that the world needs a new clean-energy desalination future and that arriving at this future will require a completely new way of thinking. Rather than reflexive, incremental improvements to existing but fundamentally inefficient technology platforms, we need to re-conceptualize the entire problem from different scales of perspective, using entirely new approaches and alternative modes of engineering.
The Okeanos WaterChip™ is a solid-state, Massively Paralleled Desalination (MPD) platform that uses a newly characterized, patent-pending microscale process called Electrochemically Mediated Desalination (EMD). With EMD, we desalinate with radical energy-efficiency one millionths of a liter at a time using tiny microstructures. That is, we ¡§Microdesalinate¡¨ ¡V and we do this in a massively paralleled format to produce useful water flows. Desalination in tiny volumes allows us exploit a form of energy that simply cannot be generated in ¡§macroscale¡¨ (e.g. liters of space), called an ¡§electrochemical field gradient¡¨. Using these microscale energy gradients to do the ¡§work¡¨ of desalination is advantageous because desalination becomes limited by electron rather than ion-transfer kinetics. As a result, EMD is far more efficient than those processes that function in the dimensions of space you are used to thinking about - such as Reverse Osmosis, Electrodialysis or heat/evaporative based methods. The electrochemistry of EMD is complex, but the best way to explain it is to say that we are in essence exploiting and harnessing the built-in, corrosive potential of seawater and, in very tiny spaces, redirecting this corrosive potential towards the useful task of desalination.
EMD is the first to separate salts from water without the use of membranes or sorption surfaces, and this obviates the need for massive hydraulic pressures or electrical currents. Our limiting dimension is about 50 microns, as opposed to 5 nanometers as with RO filters, and this will translate into lower maintenance (fouled filter replacement, cleaning) and pretreatment (pre-filtration/conditioning) expenses. A natural disinfection provided by the method could further reduce pretreatment and post-treatment expenses, as well as maintenance and capital infrastructure costs. Reaching its full fruition, EMD is expected to render desalinating seawater and brackish water as inexpensive as harvesting fresh water from underground and surface sources. The extreme energy efficiency of EMD will enable alternative-energy powered desalination in remote, off-grid contexts, opening vast and renewable brackish aquifers and enabling new distributive water models where cheap, clean water is made where it is needed, when it is needed. We believe our technology to be the first truly disruptive and transformative desalination technology since the 1950s when Reverse Osmosis, today¡¦s gold desalination standard, was introduced to the world.