“Reverse Osmosis Desalination: A Glimpse at the Past and a View Toward Future Water Independence for California” explored technology for a more cost-effective and environmentally-responsive approach to seawater desalination.

By M. Abraham

The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science hosted “Reverse Osmosis Desalination: A Glimpse at the Past and a View Toward Future Water Independence for California,” in Moore Hall last Thursday evening, exploring advances in technology that may demonstrate a more cost-effective and environmentally-responsive approach to seawater desalination.

Hosted as part of the School’s ongoing celebration of its 60th Anniversary, the talk was given by chemical engineering professor and desalination expert Yoram Cohen with professor emeritus Julius “Bud” Glater to a full crowd at UCLA’s Moore Hall.

During the lecture, Cohen discussed key issues of water desalination, ongoing research, and the potential this technology holds for the future. Glater touched on the history of desalination at UCLA.

UCLA Engineering developed the first viable reverse-osmosis membrane in the 1960s, and the School continues to be a leader in the field, recently forming a new Water Technology Research Center that will develop technologies to turn brackish or seawater into fresh water. Researchers at the center also will study methods to minimize environmental impacts associated with desalination — the removal of salt and other pollutants from water, and will seek to lower the cost of desalination by integrating it with innovative energy generation.

The UCLA Water Technology Research Center, dubbed the WaTeR Center, is led by Cohen, and is the first such center on the West Coast. The Center is focusing on specific water technology issues, enlisting multidisciplinary project teams involving researchers from several academic institutions including UCLA, UC Davis, UC Riverside, USC and the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain.

Cohen, who announced the formation of the center at the Urban Water Institute’s Seawater Desalination and Power Conference luncheon in June 2005, said, “As finite water sources are depleted, we must look at new ways to address the serious water problems that confront us. We must innovate our way to clean, affordable water independence, which is why the research we are undertaking at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science is so vital. Our goal is to help make California a world leader in water desalination research and technology while training the next generation of desalination experts.”