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SunAqua18 Report Summary

Project ID: 739468

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SunAqua18 (Sustainable Desalination System)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2017-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Please visit our 4-minute video for a synthesis of the project (
The earth is drying. This is not an apocalyptic message but the conclusions of NASA in the frame of the GRACE Project. And NASA is not the only one to claim it. Very many other prestigious entities, including Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, advance that we are already in a state of crisis and that in 2030 demand will exceed supply by a 50%.
A change of our way of doing is necessary, a change of mentality that recognises water as a scarce and valuable good and that optimizes its use, recycles it and, if necessary, increases the water supply without any major impact for the local ecosystems and the planet in general. The perfect way to achieve it would be an ideal system of water distillation: a total separation of water from it solutes in a sustainable way that allows both to get back water and to recover materials that may be a marketable good.
AQUA.abib developed an initial prototype aiming at those objectives and, with the support of the European Commission, it is now constructing a final version to launch into the market. Our initial objective is the application of this system to seawater desalination. Seawater is, in general, a clean water source with the only drawback of salt, so it is becoming a complementary source of water thanks to techniques of desalination such as the reverse osmosis. Unfortunately, reverse osmosis is unsustainable, both because of high emissions and waste generation in the form of waters with a very high salinity level, known as brine.
Our system consists in a pyramidal structure (figure 1) of octagonal base with a height of 15m and covering an area of 2.500m2. The system is named SunAqua and it is able to generate over 25.000m3 of water per year, enough water to cover the domestic needs of close to 1.500 persons , while offering other advantages:
1. It is a 0-rejection system that generates, besides water, commercial salt. This extra revenue covers good part of the costs.
2. The pyramidal structure is a covered space by itself, it is a space with geothermic air conditioning at ground level, an ideal space for other activities like orchards, warehousing or as shelter.
In the frame of the present project, AQUA.abib expects to optimize the original design to diminish costs and increase performance to increase its competitivity and accelerate its expansion as an alternative for water supply and water treatment. Also, we are working on the diffusion of the project, so that any sort of stakeholder gets to know this new option for water supply and water treatment. And, from the commercial standpoint, this first plant shall become the showcase that activates sales among those very many potential clients that still have not made up their minds because fist they want to see a working real plant rather than the results of a previous prototype.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

the report and main results achieved so far
Good part of the scheduled work has been completed in the first period:
1. Simulations: check and improve the plant’s performance.
2. Materials: identification and selection of the materials for the external structure based on the quality/benefit relationships.
3. Exterior design: final shape of the pyramidal structure, including a structural analysis and the basic construction project.
4. Internal design: final layout of elements like piping, and instruments such as pumps and sensors.
The project has suffered significant delays due to the bureaucratic process linked to the construction permits and the necessity of changing the construction site. These delays have affected have directly or indirectly affected other tasks and both the construction project and the control system have not been completed.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Feasibility: The first task of the project was an initial evaluation through simulation to check the expectations, detect the ways to improve the initial prototype and help with the materials assessment. The forecast of the plant’s performance was estimated on a conservative basis, and the simulation’s results have confirmed that our chances to improve those estimations are high. Ansys-Fluent was the selected tool for building the model of the plant, the plant was fractioned in thousands of pieces each of which was then modelled as a component of the final model, and a powerful workstation (64Gb RAM) for a fast execution of simulations to achieve a precise calibration and in order to analyse as many different scenarios as possible. This model has a value beyond this project, as it can be adapted to future variations that may come from the will to optimize the design as a function of the special characteristics of each geographic area (building spot, irradiation, winds, local costs, …).
Structure and materials: Scaling-up from a small prototype (48m2) to a large one (2.500m2) proved to be complex. Typsa proved to be an excellent collaborator and provided both good insight of our own proposals and original proposals on its own. The final materials for the pyramid’s coverage are a combination of PVC for the peripheric top surface, methacrylate for the mid-surface and tempered glass for the tip of the pyramid. The metallic grid for supporting the plastics has been replaced by a mix of metal, concrete and thick cords. The combination is explained in D2.1 and D2.2 and it comes from the necessity of having some flexibility to deal with wind loads and the optimization from a cost/benefit standpoint. Again, this study has identified the range of materials and designs and their sensitivity to price variations, helping us, in a future, to identify optimum solutions according to the local factors.
Socio-economic: AQUA.abib has been spreading the word about the present water crisis, how it is going to worsen in the following decades and how we should begin to make a special effort to manage the present situation and take the necessary steps to minimize it impact in the future.
We believe the project will have a major socio-economic impact as it is a perfect system for underdeveloped areas and for agriculture and animal farming in areas of severe water shortage. This social impact has already been recognized by the accelerator Ship2B in the frame of the highly-competitive South Summit event, where 100 out of 3.500 start-ups were selected and where AQUA.abib won the price to the start-up with the highest expected social impact.
SunAqua, as system for seawater desalination, combines three values: water, salt and a polyvalent building.
1. Water is the base of life, and it will provide the first indispensable resource to the local population, both for drinking and personal hygiene.
2. Salt is a basic good – necessary for animal farming and easily sellable – that will provide an initial of an extra income to the local population. That income will generate the initial economic dynamics for economic development.
3. In parallel, most of the water from the plant dedicated to human needs can then be diluted with extra water from the plant and easily reused for farming. Agriculture or animal farming will find useful the plant as plant nursery or night shelter for the animals, and/or it can be used for advanced activities like logistics to basic ones like living premises.

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