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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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The traditional ‘Victorian’ model of water utility systems is typically characterised by large
centralised water treatment or processing facilities, distributed to users by a pipeline
infrastructure. While the centralised system is almost certain to continue to dominate
water system design in large cities, the combination of technological developments and
diverse needs of developing countries means that a significant part of water consumption
may be done ‘off-grid’ or in a decentralised manner. For instance, remote areas that are
non-economic in terms of size or distance from urban centres may require an off-
grid/modular approach to water supply. It may also be that a move to decentralised (or
smaller unit) water supply could make sense in rapidly growing urban areas where
investment requirements for the upgrade and extension of old infrastructure may be
unsustainable. More decentralised water supplies also increases security of the supply,
especially if the water produced is made available throughout the network. In addition,
increased focus on sustainability means that many water-hungry industrial applications
(such as food processing, paper and pulp, mining) are developing sustainable/closed-
loop systems. Smaller scale units and mobile systems could be used to improve
agriculture in water scarce countries. If a unit can be moved between fields together with
the rest of the irrigation system it could potentially supply a very large area, assuming
that the original saline water supply is available. Hence, in addition to technologies
favouring centralised/utility-scale solutions, there is an increasing need for mobile or
modular solutions to water requirements.

The ‘decoupling’ of the economics of supply in such locations from the main centralised
water system may mean that integrated renewable energy–desalination systems may be
best applied in such locations. There is therefore a specific focus around
mobility/modularity in this patent landscape report.

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