Salinity Solutions, a spinout from the University of Birmingham, is proceeding with field testing of a compact, energy-efficient desalination system that it said can concentrate the salts in ground water to extract a mineral-rich brine.

The company said it will test the system with eco-technology company Cornish Lithium, which has secured agreements with the owners of mineral rights in Cornwall,  South West England. Salinity Solutions is launching a crowd-funding campaign to fund the first field trial at Cornish Lithium’s site in Redruth, Cornwall, by early 2022. The company said it is seeking £400,000 ($550,000) of new investment to supplement £150,000 from principal investor Clean Engineering and a £210,000 grant from Innovate UK ICURe, a commercialization support program for academic researchers.

Salinity Solution’s patented desalination technology reportedly achieves the maximum yield of any known available system, but at up to half the energy consumption and with a much smaller footprint.

The technology results from more than a decade of research by Professor Philip Davies, and is an adaptation of an established technique called batch reverse osmosis, which uses a partially permeable membrane to separate water from ions and molecules.

Davies re-engineered reverse osmosis to produce a system that approaches the theoretical limits for energy efficiency and brine recovery, and went on to build five prototypes in the laboratories of Aston University and the University of Birmingham. The technology that has been developed will soon be tested in four field trials over three continents.

The university patented the technology in 2018 and licensed it to the newly formed spinout company earlier this year.

Tim Naughton, technical director at Salinity Solutions, said, “The unit we supply to Cornish Lithium has been designed to withstand the elements.  We’ve simulated real-world conditions in the laboratory using feed water supplied by Cornish Lithium, and the system is reacting as expected and to the efficiencies predicted by our algorithms.”

Dr. Rebecca Paisley, exploration geochemist at Cornish Lithium, said, “We are actively engaging with companies developing innovative, extraction technologies that are energy-efficient, with a small footprint, and capable of processing the unique geothermal waters found in Cornwall.”