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Dr. Peter Fiske

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Dr. Peter S. Fiske is the Executive Director of NAWI – the National Alliance for Water Innovation headquartered at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab running the Department of Energy’s Desalination Hub, a 5-year, $110M research program to radically cut the cost and energy consumption for water treatment in a variety of applications including ocean desalination, inland brackish water treatment, industrial water reuse and produced water treatment. Fiske is also the Director of the Water-Energy Resilience Research Institute (WERRI) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Prior to joining LBNL, Fiske was the Chief Executive Officer of PAX Water Technologies, Inc. from 2008 until January, 2017 when it was acquired by UGSI Inc. in an all-cash transaction. PAX Water pioneered the use of biomimicry to develop innovative and energy efficient technologies for the water industry. PAX also led the industry in advanced manufacturing processes and approaches and successfully in-sourced manufacturing operations from abroad while lowering cost and improving quality and speeding innovation cycles. PAX Water won a number of national water industry awards and its iconic Lily impeller technology was featured in a major design exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2008.

Pushing the Limit on Desalination: An Update from the NAWI Research Program

The National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI) is a 5-year, $110M applied research program sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and focused on technology innovations to lower the levelized cost of water produced by desalination. Now beginning its third year of research projects, NAWI researchers are beginning to report important results that suggest that a future where desalination is used to produce fresh water from a wide range of non-traditional water sources (not just ocean water) at a cost comparable to the current marginal water supply in any area is within reach.


One major focus of the NAWI program is to drive toward higher recovery rates for desalination. Current conventional RO membranes and processes can produce fresh water from brines up to an osmotic pressure of 120 bars, limiting the salinity treatable using conventional reverse osmosis. NAWI is attacking this challenge on several fronts. First, we have research to greatly increase the pressure at which conventional thin film polymeric membranes can operate by both stiffening the support structures and optimizing the mechanical design of membrane/support/spacer systems. Second, we have developed a novel method for 3D printing thin film membranes using electrospray technologies, allowing us to make anisotropic membranes out of a much wider range of stronger polymeric chemistries. Third, we are developing novel osmotic cycles that can allow us recover more water from higher-concentration brines by cascading the process through a series of RO steps (Osmotically-Assisted RO) or by using membranes engineered to leak some salt and thus relieve osmotic pressure across the membrane (Low Salt Rejection RO). These innovations, along with breakthroughs in brine crystallization, may allow us to field ultra-high recovery RO systems capable of reducing any waste water or brine into pure water and dry solutes.

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