New Technology Uses the Power of Waves to Desalinate Water

A Canadian startup has come up with a floating desalination system that uses ocean waves.

Dec 17, 2023


Water, Innovation
New Technology Uses the Power of Waves to Desalinate Water | A Canadian startup has come up with a floating desalination system that uses ocean waves.

There are a lot of potential sources of clean energy out there: solar energy, wind energy, hydrogen-based energy, and more. One of the less-known sources of clean energy is wave energy

Now that energy is being put to use in an almost ironic way, turning seawater into drinking water by Oneka, a Canadian startup that uses the power of waves to desalinate water.

“The ocean is an unforgiving place," Susan Hunt, the chief innovation officer of Oneka told the BBC. "But our technology is designed to operate there - it goes up and down in the waves, all day and all night.”

Water for a thirsty world
More than half the world’s inhabitants struggle to find drinking water at least one month a year. And with climate change bringing with it extreme weather and heat, that figure will likely rise. That is why it is estimated that the desalination sector will rise by nine percent by 2030. 

In general, there are two kinds of desalination technology. The first is thermal, meaning it uses heat to evaporate seawater, which leaves salt behind. This technique uses a lot of energy. The second technology is membrane based. In this technique sea water is pushed through a semipermeable membrane, separating the salt and the water. This is less energy intensive.

Whichever technology is used, however, most desalination plants run on non-renewable energy.And there is also the issue of the salt itself. The high salinity of the water and salt that flows back into the ocean often creates dead zones. The water in these zones is so salty that marine life dies off in those areas. 

 “Desalination facilities are conventionally powered by fossil fuels," Hunt said. “But the world has certainly reached a pivot point. We want to move away from fossil fuel powered desalination.”

Unique Solutions
This is where Oneka’s unique desalination technology comes in. In fact, the city of Fort Bragg, California has decided to use state funds to debut a new kind of desalination technology in partnership with the Canadian start-up, Oneka reported, Offshore Energy.

 Oneka uses floating desalination machines, attached to buoys. The buoys then absorb energy from the ocean waves, and convert it into mechanical forces, pumping the water through the membrane system. The fresh water is then pumped to land, also using the power of the waves. 

 The water that streams back into the ocean only contains a 30 percent increase in salinity, and is quickly dispersed by the waves, leaving no dead zones in its wake. 

This innovative technology shows us that sometimes the solutions to complicated problems don’t have to be complicated at all. Sometimes all you need are the ocean waves.
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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.