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K-State Today

August 9, 2016



Grant awarded for study of water collection and condensation in power plant cooling towers

By Mary Rankin

In the U.S. today, approximately 19 gallons of water are required to produce one kilowatt-hour of electricity. Significant amounts of this water evaporate in power plant cooling towers and must be replenished.

In a project titled "Flexible flapping surfaces for water collection and condensation," Melanie Derby, Kansas State University assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, will lead a team to investigate use of flapping thin films to condense evaporated water in power plant cooling towers. 

With a $313,655, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Derby and K-State colleagues Stacy Hutchinson, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, and Amy Betz, assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, will look at how and why flapping surfaces can "shake off" water droplets and collect more water compared to stationary surfaces. The research also will consider the quality of the reclaimed water and explore suitable uses for it.

"This research will enable power plants to reclaim and reuse tens of thousands of gallons of water daily for plant operations, as well as industrial and agricultural uses," Derby said.

The funding is part of the National Science Foundation's Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems initiative, which offers significant research funding to understand the interactions of these three highly interconnected systems.