WDRC's Ph.D. student, Ryan Lefers, was awarded at the European Desalination Society EuroMed Conference on the best poster competition.
His poster titled "Liquid Desiccant Dehumidification and Regeneration Process to Meet Cooling and Fresh Water Needs of Desert Greenhouses" is co-authored by Srivatsa Bettahalli, Prof. TorOve Leiknes, and Prof. Suzana P. Nunes.
The posters and research work behind it focuses on agriculture, the production of food to feed the planet, accounts for ~70% of freshwater consumption worldwide. As the world's population continues to grow, so does the pressure to produce more food from existing fresh water sources. Seawater desalination alone cannot meet the growing needs for irrigation and food production, particularly in hot, desert environments. Greenhouses cultivation offers promise for increased food output as it supplies more units of food per land area when compared with open field cultivation. However, desert greenhouse producers face three main challenges: fresh water supply, plant nutrient supply and cooling of the greenhouse. This research evaluates the use of a combined-system liquid desiccant dehumidifier and regeneration (desalination) unit such that the dual needs of cooling and fresh water supply are met for a greenhouse. In this system, fresh water is recycled through the irrigation and cooling cycles in such a way that no water is lost from the closed-loop greenhouse system. Through use of such a system, it is theoretically possible that the fresh water footprint of a desert greenhouse could approach zero; that is, the only water lost from the greenhouse would be the water that exits inside of the vegetables exported to market.
Consumption of food grown in such systems offers promise for a more sustainable future in light of the ever-looming challenges of food security, water security, and global climate change.