Scientists develop simulation to study autonomous water treatment plants

In a joint effort, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory worked with Baylor University and Colorado School of Mines to develop and examine control techniques for self-governed water treatment plants that consume less energy and discharge less waste.

The team developed a live model of a water treatment process that uses real-world data. The simulation identifies and makes up for factors such as sensor fouling, altering water sources and equipment breakdown.

The outcomes of a pilot-scale demonstration of a closed-circuit reverse osmosis desalination system demonstrated improvements in energy efficiency and reduction of waste stream ranging from 8% to 12%.

The models that are built now allow us to attempt new control methods in a realistic simulation before deploying them on a full-scale system.

The research is an element of the DOE National Alliance for Water Innovation. The objective of the research is to support a fully, unstaffed, autonomous and decentralized water treatment system that could be easily installed in isolated communities or industrial sites.