years, to analyze equipment designed to purify water.
The team also includes researchers from Stanford University, the
University of Illinois and Clark Atlanta University.
The program's goal is to increase and improve the world's drinking
water supplies by focusing on technology that purifies compromised
water sources such as seawater and sewage water.
Central to the project is development of reverse osmosis
membranes, which are becoming common in the water purification
industry and edging out other kinds of water treatment technology,
said Don Phipps, director of research at the Orange County Water
The reverse osmosis membrane is a device that separates water from
salt, bacteria and other constituents. Water molecules move easily
through the membrane, while salt and contaminants move more slowly
and are caught before passing through.
Reverse osmosis membranes take up less space, and therefore
require less real estate than other larger systems, due to their the
mechanical and chemical simplicity.
"As time goes by and we continue into the 21st century, this
technology is going to become more widespread, and the use will
become more common at both the small scale and the industrial scale,"
The membranes, however, are hardly perfect, Phipps said. They
could be cheaper, more energy efficient and less prone to problems.
Chemical and biological species, for example, are known collect on
the surface of the membrane, making it difficult for water to pass
"There's a number of areas where we need to see new developments,"
Phipps said. "We're working on a membrane that can produce a
better-quality product for less cost."
The membrane samples will be created at Stanford and then sent to
Fountain Valley where the research team will put the systems to work,
performing extensive experiments and testing, in an aim to weed out
what doesn't work.
Ron Wildermuth, the district's communication director, said that
this is just one more step in the agency's "tradition of innovation."