Scientists at Victoria University have shown the viability of a new desalination technology that uses almost no electricity and has the potential to save huge amounts of water.

The membrane distillation technology uses waste heat to evaporate waste water through a fine membrane. The evaporated water condenses on the other side of the membrane as treated water – at above tap water standard – for re-use.

Conventional evaporative desalination systems require temperatures of 70°C or higher but the membrane distillation technology can use waste heat as low as 30°C

The three-month trial of the process was conducted at Melbourne’s gas-fired Newport Power Station.

Project leader, Associate Professor Mike Duke, said that “If it were scaled up to a continuously operating industry of similar size to Newport Power Station, it could desalinate around 7 million litres of water per day, which is the equivalent of supplying fresh water to about 25,000 people in Melbourne.”