“A Columbia Engineering team led by Ngai Yin Yip, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering, reports that they have developed a radically new desalination approach – “Temperature Swing Solvent Extraction (TSSE)” – for hypersaline brines. Their study, published online in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, demonstrates that TSSE can desalinate very high-salinity brines, up to seven times the concentration of seawater. This is a good deal more than reverse osmosis, the “gold standard” for seawater desalination, and can handle twice the seawater salt concentrations.

Currently, hypersaline brines are either filtered by membrane (reverse osmosis) or undergo evaporation (distillation). Each has limitations. Reverse osmosis is ineffective for high-saline brines, because the pressures applied scale with the amount of salt: hypersaline brines require prohibitively high pressurisations. Distillation techniques, which evaporate the brine, are very energy-intensive.

Yip has been working on solvent extraction, a separation method widely employed for chemical engineering processes. The relatively inexpensive, simple, and effective separation technique is …”

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