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Desalination Technologies and the Use of Alternative Energies for Desalination - Patent Landscape Report

Desalination Technologies and the Use of Alternative Energies for Desalination - Patent Landscape Report

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Access to clean water is a basic human need, but is also an important driver of social and economic development. One of the ways to improve water availability is through desalination, but most plants currently in operation worldwide use very energy intensive desalination methods. Desalination has therefore traditionally been considered too expensive. However, the use of renewable energies could provide a more affordable alternative, principally in developing and least developed countries.

This patent landscape report on desalination-related patents identified 4551 patent families (including utility models) that claim inventions related to desalination of water, and 921 families describing the combination of desalination technologies with the use of renewable energies. Based on this patent collection various patterns of patenting activity and innovation in the area of desalination are detected, with a separate focus on the use of renewable energies for desalination.
Access to clean water is a basic human need, but is also an important driver of social and economic development. One of the ways to improve water availability is through desalination, but most plants currently in operation worldwide use very energy intensive desalination methods. Desalination has therefore traditionally been considered too expensive. However, the use of renewable energies could provide a more affordable alternative, principally in developing and least developed countries.

This patent landscape report on desalination-related patents identified 4551 patent families (including utility models) that claim inventions related to desalination of water, and 921 families describing the combination of desalination technologies with the use of renewable energies. Based on this patent collection various patterns of patenting activity and innovation in the area of desalination are detected, with a separate focus on the use of renewable energies for desalination.

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01/08/2016

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CO2 emissions: In recent years, the CO2 impact of water treatment technologies has
become an increasingly important issue. Legacy systems in particular have a very high
energy input, with sometimes utility-scale plants powered by diesel generators. Current
utility-scale installations are already becoming more energy-efficient, for instance by
using gas-powered generation and grid-integration, but they are still significant
contributors to CO2 emissions. Importantly, there is an awareness among the developer
community that wider dissemination of desalination technologies outside key existing
markets would require significant reductions in CO2 emissions. Hence, there is growing
clarity of the market need for partial- or full integration of desalination with renewable
energy sources.

Brine output: Brine output from desalination plants remains probably the key
sustainability problem with desalination. The brine salinity is very often too high for it to
be released back into the ocean or a river system, and so costly post-treatment (such as
pre-mixing with seawater or deep sea pumping) is required. The temperature could also
cause damage to the ecosystem as brine is usually at very high temperature (especially
for thermal processes). Furthermore, the brine solution can contain harmful chemicals
from the pre- and post-processing procedures. The salinity and the chemical content can
not only harm marine ecosystems, but could also contaminate existing ground water
sources. All of these issues need to be addressed during the planning of a desalination
plant.

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Brine management is not an area of focus of this patent landscaping report. However,
given the importance of this issue, we are aware of a growing number of research
projects and technologies around brine management. We would recommend further
research in this area, as the lack of brine management solutions may become a barrier
to the more rapid diffusion of desalination technology

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