William Tarpeh, Chemical Engineering, Juan Santiago and Xiaolin Zheng, Mechanical Engineering
As energy, food, and water resources become increasingly constrained, viewing these three systems holistically uncovers disruptive optimization opportunities. Energy production requires water; water consumes energy for transport and treatment, including removing fertilizer-derived nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus); and agriculture comprises the majority of water withdrawals and considerable transport for irrigation water. Our long-term vision is to design and build situationally optimized energy-efficient, modular water treatment systems for agriculture. A key challenge for achieving this vision is the lack of analytical tools to compare economics and efficiencies of existing and future water treatment systems, hindering the selection of best approaches for optimizing water and energy use. To overcome this challenge, we plan to design the first open-source, unit-process modeling tool for analyzing agricultural water treatment as flows of cost, mass, and energy. This tool will be further validated with three novel electrochemical treatment technologies for fertilizer production, desalination, and disinfectant production. If successful, we will establish capabilities and metrics for different water treatment systems; stimulate follow-on funding from diverse entities interested in the food-energy-water nexus; and expand Stanford’s expertise in agricultural water treatment.