Novel Method for the Production of Upgraded Water From Saline, Brackish and Polluted Water

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Novel Method for the Production of Upgraded Water from Saline,

Brackish and Polluted Water

Princeton Docket # 12-2722/2817

The growing shortage of fresh water is a problem of international concern. Methods for upgrading sea water make an important contribution to the fresh water supply. Current large-scale methods for upgrading sea water are by reverse osmosis and flash-distillation, the latter being used primarily where thermal energy is cheaply available. Reverse osmosis is approaching its practical economic limit because of the energy required to force water through the osmosis membranes at pressures well above the osmotic pressure of sea water, and by the cost and life times of the membranes.

Researchers at Princeton University have proposed a novel and efficient desalination process for upgrading the quality of saline and other contaminated water sources, either to potable water grades or intermediate qualities for a variety of industrial and agricultural uses. These include providing low-saline feed to energy-saving low pressure reverse osmosis plants, and methods for the concentration and disposal of water-borne impurities from oil-field, mining and agricultural activities.

This proposed novel desalination process differs radically from earlier methods by employing a combination of hydrate-formers. These complex hydrates are stabilized, as compared to single hydrate-formers, by allowing hydrate cavities of different dimensions to be occupied simultaneously. Multiple occupancy extends the useful range of pressures and temperatures beyond those available with currently known single hydrate-formers, and allows choice of the number of phases employed in the overall desalination process. A further novel feature of the process is the incorporation of a small, high pressure, partially cooled unit to generate hydrate nuclei for injection to the main continuous loop system for start-up, thereby avoiding the nucleation lag phase for hydrate formation in the reactor and increasing hydrate formation rates.


·         Generate potable water


·         Dewatering of polluted waters from agricultural and mining activities


·         Provide low-saline feed to energy-saving low pressure reverse osmosis plants


·         Efficient


·         Membrane-free


·         Can operate with waste heat

Faculty Inventors


Brian A. Pethica is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. His career has been both academic and industrial. As an academic with doctorates (Ph.D, D.Sc.) in physical chemistry from Imperial College and Cambridge University he has been on the faculty of Cambridge and Manchester Universities in the UK and of Clarkson University in the USA. His industrial activities are diverse and include: The Advanced Management Program at Harvard, Head of a Unilever R&D Laboratory in the UK, VP of EBI (Medical Systems), long term close association with Halliburton on oil-field flow assurance, and with International Specialty Products (now Ashland) on vinyl pyrrolidone-based products and processes. His personal research has mostly focused on surface and colloid science and chemical thermodynamics as applied to chemisorption on metals, adsorbed and insoluble monolayers at fluid interfaces, colloid stability and biocell contact phenomena, solution and surface properties of proteins and polymers, with current emphasis on nanotechnology, clathrate hydrates and desalination.   


Sankaran Sundaresan is a Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. His research encompasses chemical reaction engineering and transport phenomena. More specifically, he employs experiments, simulations and theory to investigate the complexities manifested by multiphase flows in various types of reactors: trickle beds, bubble columns, and fluidized beds. His research examines the origin and hierarchy of meso-scale structures in multiphase flows, and develops coarsened equations of motion to capture their consequences on macro-scale flow structures in an efficient manner.  His recent work addresses desalination via clathrate hydrate formation.


Pablo G. Benedetti is the Dean for Research, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science, and Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. His research program addresses a range of topics in the theory of condensed matter, including glasses and the glass transition, water and aqueous solutions, nucleation, metastabilty, and protein thermodynamics. He employs computational and theoretical methods rooted in statistical mechanics to study problems such as the effects of temperature, pressure and co-solutes on protein stability; the origin of biological homochirality; the structure, dynamics and phase behavior of water in nano-scale confinement; dynamics in supercooled liquids; the thermodynamics of supercooled water; the thermodynamics of hydrophobicity; the thermodynamics, formation mechanisms and formation kinetics of clathrate hydrates; and the properties of proteins and other biomolecules under low-moisture conditions and in glassy matrices.


Intellectual Property Status

Patent protection is pending.

Princeton is seeking to identify appropriate partners for the further development and commercialization of this technology.


Laurie Tzodikov
Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing • (609) 258-7256•

Laurie Bagley
Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing • (609) 258-5579•


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Laurie Tzodikov
Licensing Associates
Princeton University
Brian Pethica
Sankaran Sundaresan
Pablo Debenedetti
process optimization
wastewater management