Chapter 18 – Application of solar energy in modular drinking water treatment
The utilization of solar energy to treat drinking water can form a sustainable approach, considering the exponential depletion of the nonrenewable resources. It has been a successful technology in many parts of the world and under rigorous research mode in various other countries as well. For the rural communities, off-grid, deserts or other remote locations where access to electricity is a common issue, can avail the portable, modular solar-cell water treatment units. Some solar-driven processes in the form of photo-Fenton oxidation, solar water disinfection, and photocatalytic system promise an effective removal of contaminants, pathogens, and organic matters. Solar desalination is an important aspect as well for availing the safe access to drinking water, as over 97% of the water present on earth is salty. Incorporation of the graphene-modified photocatalytic semiconductor or carbon black nanoparticles (NPs) has even found potent in effective utilization of sunlight energy (for, e.g., to heat one part of the membrane for the treatment of saline water). However, higher up-front capital cost as compared to other driven energy sources (kerosene or coal) is an issue. Some of the currently running operations even provide an effective and economical solution in the form of solar-reverse osmosis treatment without requiring much maintenance and installing problems. These features also promise to work even during the no-sunlight mode. However, the scale-up challenge and availability of the sun illumination have been an area of thought since long to effectively utilize the solar energy in hand. Nevertheless, in future, modular solar-driven treatment units will play a crucial role in achieving an overall sustainable water treatment approach.
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