Companies have been trying for decades to increase the efficiency of desalination. Oasys Water thinks it has a solution. The Cambridge, Massachusetts based desalination start-up has announced closing a $10 million dollar Series A funding round. Among the major investors are Flagship Ventures, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. These firms, hailing from Massachusetts and Silicon Valley, all have investments in several areas, and growing cleantech portfolios.
Oasys, short for Osmotic Application Systems, is developing a proprietary desalination system that Oasys calls Engineered Osmosis (EO). Rob McGinnis, Oasys’ founder conceived EO with Dr. Menachem Elimelech while studying environmental engineering at Yale. Oasys claims EO does not require the high water pressure of the decades-old Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology. The energy demands of RO desalination plants, and their accompanying financial and environmental impacts, have prevented desalination from taking off as a source for drinking water. Today, most desalination plants are in dry, energy rich areas, such as the Middle East. However, expected worldwide increases in demand for water, coupled with increasing shortages in places like Australia and California, have prompted more research into new desalination techniques, as well as refining RO systems.
The Oasys Water announcement is just one of many recent examples of new funding for emerging desalination technologies. The Spanish Ministry of Industry Tourism and Commerce has funded a project at the Madrid Institute for Advanced Study (IMDEA) and engineering firm PROINGESA to design a Capacitive Deinonization device for desalinization. Los Angeles-based NanoH2O raised $15 million in second round funding in September 2008 for an improved RO membrane system that should increase efficiency in RO plants. Pump Engineering Inc, a Michigan based manufacturer of pumps and energy recovery equipment for RO plants, announced in January that PEI had completed a “multi-million dollar” deal with Plymouth Venture Partners.
If Oasys, or any other company, can find a way to drastically reduce the cost of desalination, it would be a boon for that company’s investors, and to residents of water-poor regions worldwide.