By 2025, it is estimated that five and a half billion people - two-thirds of the world’s population - will live in countries that are classified as ‘water stressed’.
The manipulated osmosis (MO) technique developed by Prof Adel Sharif at the University of Surrey’s Centre for Osmosis Research and Applications (CORA) converts seawater to drinking water through a process combining forward osmosis and reverse osmosis. With low capital and operating costs, MO also has a positive impact on the environment, as it uses around 30% less energy than conventional desalination and lowers the consumption and disposal of hazardous chemicals. In 2005, Professor Adel Sharif was awarded the prestigious Royal Society Brian Mercer Award, and the subsequent funding helped build a pilot-scale desalination plant at the Guildford campus.
Surrey Aqua Technology Ltd and Modern Water plc
In November 2006, Surrey Aqua Technology Ltd was formed, as a spin-out company from the University of Surrey, to develop MO technology. In June 2007, it was incorporated into Modern Water plc, and listed on the AIM with a market value of £70 million.
Modern Water has two desalination plants in operation - a proving plant in Gibraltar and a commercial-scale plant in Oman, which has been supplying high quality water to the region since March 2010.
Prof Sharif comments: “MO and its associated technologies can significantly change the economic and performance characteristics of industries such as desalination, conventional water treatment, power generation, oil and the chemical and energy industries.”
Current Modern Water applications include evaporative cooling systems, pre-treatment for thermal desalination plants, secondary oil recovery and hydro-osmotic power. A proving plant for evaporative cooling systems is now commissioned in Oman. The technology reduces electricity consumption by up to 90% compared to a conventional cooling plant.
Neil McDougall, Executive Chairman of Modern Water plc, comments: “We are proud of the successes we have achieved in taking these technologies from the lab to commercialisation in a short timescale.”