The problematic lack of clean drinking water plagues many
impoverished nations worldwide. Many people do not realize that even
nations bordering the sea often suffer water shortages and drink contaminated
water. A new high-tech
windmill aims to provide relief for the third-world's water crisis.
The new windmill can purify salt water purely by wind-driven mechanical
energy. The windmill was designed at the Delft University of Technology
(TU Delft) in The Netherlands. It runs by using the wind's mechanical
force to pump water, and utilizes a high tech reverse osmosis membrane.
The pumped water is pushed against this membrane at approximately 60 bar of
pressure, and the salt is kept inside while pure water travels across the
The windmill setup is estimated to 5 to 10 m3 of fresh water a day,
based on the device’s capacity at varying wind speeds. Such output could
provide a village of up to 500 people with drinking water. Water
reservoirs will store enough water for five days, in order to avoid water
shortages during non-windy days. The device also has three mechanical
safeguards built in to protect it if the installation runs dry, if the
installation experiences too low revolutions, or if the installation
experiences too high revolutions. No electrical controls are needed to
accomplish these safeguards.
Previous windmill/reverse osmosis setups have been used, but never has the
mechanical energy been used to directly fuel the process. In previous
setups, the windmill was used to generate electricity, which was then stored,
and used to power a pump driving the reverse osmosis at a much lower
The windmill setup is currently near the A13 motorway outside Delft. It
will be transported to Curaçao for field testing using salt water later this
week. TU Delft hopes to offer similar devices to small villages in dry,
isolated coastal areas.
The fact that the purely mechanical
process is superior in terms of efficiency and simplicity to the
electro-mechanical system is a reminder that in this modern world of high tech
electronics, sometimes the most "high tech" solution is one with no
electronics at all.