By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Administrative Assistant
Dr. Sarada Kuravi, Assistant Professor of Thermal Science and Energy in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Director of the Renewable Energy and Thermal Systems Laboratory at New Mexico State University, was recently awarded a Desalination and Water Purification Research grant for her proposed project concerning solar stills and improving their performance. This project entitled, Enhanced Solar Desalination using Innovative Approaches for Concentrate Treatment and Energy Recovery, will strive to not only increase the availability of fresh water in India but also in drought-affected areas within the Southwestern United States. With a budget of $300,000 (federal share of $150,000), the project period is awarded from January 2020 through June 2021.
Dr. Kuravi was awarded funding in 2017 through the Cooperative Agreement between the Bureau of Reclamation and New Mexico State University, Center for the Development and Use of Alternative Water Supplies. Her awarded project entitled, Low Cost, Low Energy Concentrate Water Desalination using Heat Recuperative Solar Still with Concentrating Solar Technology, spanned on designing an innovative solar still system to aid in water desalination by utilizing novel multidisciplinary engineering and science-centric elements to increase fresh water production and waste heat recovery. Kuravi has submitted three research papers on this subject for publication. Due to her findings and results from this Cooperative Agreement project, she was able to develop a solid foundation for her newly funded research.
The main focus of Dr. Kuravi’s latest project will be on providing an enhanced and more reliable type of solar still that is capable of producing fresh water up to 15 times more efficiently than the traditional, non-altered design. According to Dr. Kuravi, “Novel and viable multidisciplinary engineering and science-centric elements (e.g., mirror technology, binary surfaces, composite interfacial layer, and external condenser) proposed in the project will cumulatively contribute to achieving a rapidly increased fresh water production rate and waste heat recovery at high temperatures.” Her prototype design will be used to address brackish water and reverse osmosis concentrate at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo and the collected data will then be sent for analysis to determine its adaptability regarding salinity and water chemistry.
Dr. Kuravi will lead the study with the help of co-principal investigators Drs. Krishna Kota, Pei Xu, Young-Ho Park, and Huiyao Wang. She will also have the assistance of the National Institute of Technology located in India, where several scholars will help provide testing and feedback on the efficiency of the solar stills being tested. Others involved in the performance of this study include three graduate students, two undergraduate students and multiple capstone students who will be assisting to ensure the study progresses as smoothly as possible.
The successful completion of this research will help provide a better, alternative design to solar stills in order to greatly improve their current output of water production and desalination rate, thus enabling sustainable sources of fresh water to be produced at lower costs and give relief to struggling rural communities. Dr. Kuravi believes, “Solar stills have the potential to be the most affordable choice in remote and arid areas and are ideal for handling the water demands of distributed systems.” Without the costs of relying on fuel or electricity, solar stills are an affordable alternative to producing clean water and Dr. Kuravi’s alternative design will make solar stills a useful tool for mitigating water scarcity.