Staff at a desalination plant in Tianjin, March 21, 2010. (Photo/Xinhua)
China will soon begin production of large amounts of fresh water through the desalination of sea ice, according to a university research team and a Chinese company on Tuesday.
A research team from Beijing Normal University signed a sea ice desalination technology transfer agreement with Beijing Huahaideyuan Technology on Tuesday.
The company is expected to be able to produce at least 1 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually by 2023, said Yu Jian, executive president of the company.
The salinity of sea ice is between 0.4%-0.8%, much lower than that of sea water, which stands at about 2.8%-3.1%, said professor Gu Wei, head of the research team.
The research team has mastered the basic principles and technology of sea ice desalination and developed the equipment to be used in the process, including an ice-breaking platform and an ice-gatherer, he said.
The salinity of sea ice water after desalination is 0.1%, which meets the national standard. The water can be used in agriculture, by industry and for drinking, he said.
The cost of desalination is expected to fall to 4 yuan (US$0.66) per tonne, he said.
China's sea ice desalination program started in 1996 when Shi Peijun, a professor from Beijing Normal University, hypothesized that low saline ice could ease the water shortage around the Pan-Bohai Bay area in northern China, after desalination.
The program has received a total of 29.72 million yuan (US$4.88 million) from various government departments in the past 18 years.
In winter in high-latitude oceans, there is a great amount of sea ice, which is being recognized as a new source for fresh water by scientists.