Award for world’s first carbon neutral hydro-infrastructure project

New technology, researched at Cranfield University, that harnesses concentrated solar power to desalinate sea water and produce water that could be used to irrigate crops or turn desert into farmland, has won a top environmental innovation award.

Solar Water Plc was recently announced as the winner of the Rushlight Water Treatment Award in a ceremony held at the Royal Geographical Society, London. The company’s project, a world-first for carbon neutral hydro-infrastructure, envisages sea water being drawn inland through glass-enclosed aqueducts to giant domes where it is boiled and distilled through evaporation.

The energy generated to superheat the water and create a constant water cycle within the domes is the equivalent of up to 20,000 suns, produced by focusing concentrated solar radiation from surrounding reflectors.

The research, through a Cranfield group MSc project, was supervised by Dr Xavier Tonnellier, a Research Fellow in Precision Engineering, and Dr Christopher Sansom, Associate Professor in Concentrating Solar Power.

Dr Tonnellier said: “Our team built a scale table-top model to evaluate productivity and investigate the design, materials and costing for a larger field demonstrator.

“This technology could be used to produce clean, cheap water for a range of uses including farming, reforestation, biotech consumption, or use by high-tech industries that rely on pure clean water for their manufacturing.”

Solar Water Plc is engaged in raising funds for further development of a field demonstrator prototype and eventually a full-size prototype, with a dome diameter of 80 metres.

Student members of the research team were Jao Andreu, Valentin Fleury, Kamil Kocot, Valentine Lambert, Laura Perillaud, Soren Dominik Sonntag, Gregory Shirley and Alejandro Zapata. 



Desalinisation dome in the desert
Solar Water Plc video

Notes for editors

About Solar Water Plc

Solar Water Plc is a company working on innovative, carbon neutral and sustainable technology for sea water desalination on an industrial scale, created by Malcolm Aw and developed from concept to reality over a number of years. The technology is based on the natural hydrological cycle processes of evaporation, condensation and precipitation, and runs entirely on sunlight utilising a dome made of steel and glass. Pre-commercialisation and laboratory testing has been developed with Cranfield University, considered to be the UK leaders in the field of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).

The Rushlight Awards

Now in their 11th year, the Rushlight Awards are a celebration and a promotion of new technology, innovation and best
practice across the whole environment spectrum for organisations throughout UK, Ireland and internationally. Designed to highlight innovation, initiatives and the holistic environmental benefit of technologies that are most likely to or are already creating a real impact in the market, they are a means of disseminating the successes to support further development


About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.