A New Solution to California's Energy and Water Challenges: Reducing the Cost of Desalination and Increasing Water Reuse

Reducing the Cost of Desalination and Increasing Water Reuse

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


Livermore, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

Project is complete. Recipient developed and tested a new operation mode of electrodes (called batch mode) and cell modules before deployment to Delta Diablo. Results show the potential to meet salt removal and productivity targets, while reducing flow efficiency losses caused by undesired mixing of desalted water and feed water. Using the optimized electrodes, the recipient demonstrated the ability to achieve desalination targets of 500 parts per million(ppm) total dissolved solids (tds) removal with more than 70% water recovery on Delta Diablo water samples. The recipient evaluated a novel charging circuitry design that takes advantage of the large inherent capacity of the cells to eliminate the need for AC-DC converters, thus simplifying the design and lowering cost.

The Issue

Desalination is currently the primary method of removing salt from industrial and municipal wastewater for reuse. However, this technology is energy intensive and expensive. Industrial processes and household activities continuously add salt to water, and as a result, the salt content of industrial and municipal wastewater is often too high for reuse. The salt content of this wastewater must be reduced to enable recycling and to avoid ecological damage, however a more energy efficient technology compared to current practice is needed.

Project Innovation

This project is demonstrating a flow-through electrode capacitive desalination (FTE-CD) technology to reduce the energy used to remove salt from wastewater. This advanced technology removes salt from water by applying an electric field to two porous electrodes. The electrodes act like a magnet for salt while the field is applied and remove the salt from water that flows through the electrodes using less energy and less costly than reverse osmosis (RO). Energy use of an FTD-CD system is projected to be 50% less compared to the energy use for an RO system. The recipient is partnering with two water districts to test the use of FTE-CD devices to desalinate wastewater from industrial and municipal sectors and determine how this small, flexible device can improve the energy and operating efficiency of wastewater treatment solutions for communities. Energy use and performance are being measured, while fouling and other operation issues are being identified.

Project Goals

Increase device scale from single cell to multi-module system capable of treating 10 L/h (500 ppm salt reduction)
Demonstrate reduced water treatment costs and reduced energy use compared to RO technology to treat low-salinity water.
Establish performance characteristics using real tertiary treated waste water at partner site (Delta Diablo)

Project Benefits

The FTE-CD technology has the potential to reduce the cost and energy associated with desalinating low to moderate salt content water and will represent an advancement over current RO technology. This technology has the potential to increase water recycling and reuse at the community or industrial level, which reducing the need to procure and transport fresh water sources. The advanced FTE-CD technology is small, flexible, and can be customized to the scale needed for each community or industry, thereby increasing a community's water reuse potential and drought resilience for the state.

Lower Costs


By reducing the cost of desalination by 30% or more, the cost of water reuse may become attractive compared to the cost of purchasing water and disposing of waste water.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

By reducing the cost of desalination by 30% or more, the cost of water reuse may become attractive compared to the cost of purchasing water and disposing of waste water. An increase in reuse means that less potable water overall is used, increasing drought resilience.

Key Project Members

Michael Stadermann

Michael Stadermann

Director, Laboratory for Energy Applications for the Future
Patrick Campbell

Patrick Campbell

Deputy Group Leader, Materials for Energy and Climate Security
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory



The Leland Stanford Junior University


Contact the Team