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SAROS is Turning Waves into Fresh Water with the Help of Fusion 360
Chris Matthews and Justin Sonnett began their senior design project, SAROS (Swell Actuated Reverse Osmosis System) at The University of North Carolina, Charlotte in the fall of 2013. At that time, they had a goal to prove it was possible to pressurize water sufficiently to perform Reverse Osmosis (RO) using only wave energy. To do this, their team developed a wave energy converter based around a floating pendulum which pumped high pressure seawater through a reverse osmosis process. After some initial simulations of the pendulum’s responses to ocean swells, the team began the first ocean trials of SAROS. Realizing there was potential in the SAROS technology, Chris and Justin set out to develop a working prototype capable of producing fresh water from the ocean. After graduation, they formed a company, EcoH2O Innovations, LLC that focuses on research and development of sustainable water solutions.
This first prototype, SAROSv1, is able to make fresh water by using the energy found in ocean waves. The pendulum design was beneficial in proving the functionality of SAROS’ reverse osmosis system and Energy Recovery System (ERS). The next step for these two mechanical engineers was to design a new prototype that much more efficiently extracted energy from ocean waves increasing the output of the technology and to ensure that the design of SAROS perfectly matched the needs of its users.
Through market research, the team discovered current desalination efforts focus on large-scale plants or solutions that rely on grid electricity and/or fossil fuels. SAROS targets areas where typical solutions are unfeasible or undesirable. On remote islands or coastal regions, technologies requiring a grid connection are largely unusable, and end-user simplicity and reliable operation are needed.
By solely concentrating on the production of fresh water (versus electricity), the efficiency is increased, the design can be simplified, and deployment and maintenance can be easily maintained by end users. Being wave-driven, the SAROS unit is capable of operating completely off grid. Target regions lack a reliable, pre-existing source of clean, freshwater, as well as resources to facilitate a large-scale desalination program. Many of these communities rely on importing water, exposing them to high costs and leaving them vulnerable to market volatility. Allowing a community to manage their own water supply increases water security and can assist in growing local economies. Even on islands or coastal regions with a reliable water source, drought-like conditions can lead to significant stress on scarce water resources. SAROS can provide both long-term solutions at an economical price as well as short-term solutions for disaster relief to ease temporary or seasonal effects on water availability. These advantages of the SAROS unit are core focuses for the next prototype.
Fusion 360 has streamlined the design of this new prototype. Its unique and versatile workflow allowed the SAROS team to quickly implement new design ideas and made simultaneous top-down and bottom-up design easy. When working with Fusion 360, the leap from imagination to 3D Modelling felt significantly shorter. The team is also looking forward to using Fusion’s integrated photorealistic animation and rendering for developing promotional materials for this newest prototype.
The SAROS team is excited to be a member of Autodesk’s Cleantech program. The group at Autodesk has been eager to help with questions and collaboration, and the SAROS team is benefiting from the expertise and software advancements of Fusion 360.
The SAROS and EcoH2O Innovations approach extends beyond the technology, allowing communities to have reliable control over their own water supply. Eliminating energy-related emissions, SAROS’ design and adaptability provide a unique opportunity to supply clean water, expand the water supply, preserve ecological and environmental needs of communities and address economic issues of energy and water pricing. By partnering with Autodesk Cleantech we are able to advance our technology in a more efficient and professional manner.
The SAROS team is optimistic that it can provide one of first truly sustainable and affordable desalination options to coastal communities around the world. With the newest prototype nearing completion, and the first tests coming soon, they hope to garner interest with potential customers and plan the installation of pilot plants within a year. Updates on the progress of testing and commercialization can be found at sarosdesalination.com, and by following the team on Twitter (@SAROSDesal) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/sarosdesalination).