Integrating the Local Material of Adobe With Solar Distillation to Produce Affordable Drinking Water

  •  Nathan Manser    
  •  James Mihelcic    


It is estimated that nearly three billion people are living in water scarce conditions. This research uses modeling and field studies to assess the quantity, quality, and economics of distillate produced for drinking water from a brackish water source using two single-sloped, single-basin (SSSB) distillation reactors. The reactors were constructed from adobe and concrete in San Luis Potosí, Mexico and tested from August to October of 2011. The cost of one adobe reactor with an evaporative area of 0.72 m2 is 535 pesos, whereas the same size reactor made from concrete costs 770 pesos. Results show that desalination reactors made from adobe produce 848 (L m-2d-1) and reactors made from concrete produce 979 (L m-2d-1) of distillate, while similar reactors made from other materials are estimated to produce over 2100 (L m-2d-1) under similar meteorological conditions. These volumes represent approximately 10 percent of drinking water needs of a local family with typical water use habits, however, after five years of operation the unit cost of potable water would be reduced by 50%. Results also showed that the concentrations of total dissolved solids in the source water decreased from 1102 (mg L-1) to 40 (mg L-1) over the study’s duration for a removal of 96% which is comparable to current desalination systems (97%). Finally, the results were modeled using a regression analysis to estimate the distillate yield based upon ambient temperature and solar radiation. The model was then applied using historical global climate data estimate the appropriateness of the adobe SSSB globally.

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