“Hypersaline brine” is industrial waste-water with salt levels that exceed even that of seawater. It’s a big, expensive, destructive problem which a team of engineers at Columbia University in New York City hope to solve with their solvent-based method of desalination.
A by-product of oil and gas production, fossil-fueled power plants, flue-gas desulfurization, landfill leaching, industrial effluent and inland desalination, hypersaline brines are difficult and expensive to treat and if mismanaged, they can cause severe damage to surface and groundwater sources. Having an effective, affordable method for dealing with these brines could make huge quantities of water available for agriculture and industrial uses, and even as a possible source of drinking water.
With these challenges in mind, engineers at Columbia University in New York City, have devised a solvent-based method of extracting fresh water from these brines which is efficient, effective and low-cost, and which they’ve dubbed “temperature swing solvent extraction” or TSSE.
There are two primary methods of desalination of hyper saline brines currently employed – reverse osmosis and distillation. Reverse osmosis is fine for water with low-salt concentrations, but for hypersaline brines, the high pressure required is very expensive and energy intensive. Distillation, which evaporates the brine, also requires a prohibitive amount of energy.