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Korea claims superior way of distilling seawater

June 27,2018
The Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology Tuesday announced that it has developed the world’s first next generation seawater distillation technology that allows consumable water to be produced in low temperatures and under low pressure, which increases energy efficiency and production capacity.

Additionally, the institution has set up the world’s largest seawater distillation plant.

According to the institution, it developed a membrane distillation that only allows vapor to pass through while keeping the liquids contained. The vapor is compressed to create a liquid that can be consumed or used for industrial purposes such as irrigation by removing salt and mineral substances.

Currently there are two ways of distilling seawater: One is boiling seawater and then cooling the vapor, while the other is getting rid of the salt and minerals through extreme pressure.

These methods, however, only allow the extraction of 40 to 50 percent of the distilled water.

The institutions’ technology not only allows the process to take place at a lower temperature and under low pressure but also increases production by reducing the concentrated discharged water by 30 percent compared to the two other technologies.

Membrane distillation is considered a next-generation technology that is environmentally friendly.

The Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology said it has set up a distillation plant covering a 1,500-square-meter (0.37-acre) area on Pukyong National University’s campus in Busan.

The world’s seawater distillation market is estimated to be worth $19 billion, with major companies including Korea’s own Doosan Heavy Industries as well as global companies such as GE and France’s Veolia competing fiercely.

The institution is particularly hopeful that the distillation plant can be exported to the Middle East.

In recent years, Korea has been focusing on the development of seawater distillation.

Last month the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport held a meeting with the United Arab Emirates in Seoul to discuss cooperation in water-related businesses, including seawater distillation and smart water management.


BY LEE HO-JEONG, LEE SANG-JAI [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]