GE, Aramco launch global innovation challenge for seawater desalination

GE ecomagination and Aramco Entrepreneurship have launched an open global technology challenge to accelerate the development of solutions focused on improving the energy efficiency of seawater desalination, officials said on Tuesday. 

The $200,000 challenge will be awarded to four winners with a prize of $50,000 each, and further investments towards commercialization of the best ideas among all submissions will be considered.

Current desalination techniques are typically very energy intensive: energy consumption can account for up to 70% of the desalination costs. The global production of desalinated water uses approximately 75.2 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power nearly 7 million homes. 

The goal of this challenge is to identify novel ways to lower these costs around the world, either through technology advances, process improvements, or both.

“Finding a more efficient method of desalinating seawater will be a game-changer in our collective pursuit of a more sustainable energy future across the globe," said Nabil Al-Khowaiter, the Aramco Entrepreneurship’s director of special projects. Due to increased water scarcity, countries around the world are poised to rely more and more heavily on desalination as a means to provide fresh water. With current techniques, this increased reliance could contribute dramatically to increased energy use. 

"Aramco Entrepreneurship is partnering with GE not only to identify new solutions to lowering desalination costs, but also to invest in and attract new technologies and industries to Saudi Arabia.”

“GE ecomagination is investing to speed up the development of more sustainable solutions for water desalination, said Deb Frodl, GE’s global executive director for its ecomagination business. "Through this challenge, we hope to inspire scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and innovators around the world to bring their talents to this effort and help drive greater outcomes for customers.”

The open innovation challenge aims to identify new solutions to lower total desalination costs and emissions through: cleaner energy sources; incorporating advanced materials; and integrating processes better. Solutions must be innovative, impactful, feasible and scalable across the globe.

Entries are being immediately accepted at www.ninesights.com/community/ecomagination. The deadline to submit entries is July 16, 2014, and winners will be announced in November 2014.

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