Heat-conducting composites promise cheaper water desalination

Heat-conducting composites promise cheaper water desalination
Researchers in Germany have come up with a cheaper and more efficient alternative to the titanium tubes currently used in seawater desalination.

The heat-conducting plastic pipelines, created by a team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials, can be produced in continuous lengths and are significantly cheaper to produce than their metal counterparts - potentially making desalination possible in countries that previously couldn't afford it.

To create the pipelines, the researchers combined a polymer with copper microfibres. According to researcher Arne Haberkorn, the resulting composite can still be processed like regular plastic, yet it conducts heat like metal.

The researchers are now testing the piping in a pilot seawater desalination plant to see how much of a microorganism-based coating forms on the pipes, and how heavily the material corrodes in its salty surroundings.

They will then assess the material's thermal conductivity along with its corrosion resistance. Other areas of potential application include the food and pharmaceuticals industries.

Laura Hopperton

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