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Science
FRONTIERS
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Monday 21:00-21:30
Frontiers explores new ideas in science, meeting the researchers who see the world through fresh eyes and challenge existing theories - as well as hearing from their critics. Many such developments create new ethical and moral questions and Frontiers is not afraid to consider these.
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Listen to 17 November
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Monday 17 November 2008
The Llobregat desalination plant
The Llobregat Desalination Plant

Desalination

Gareth Mitchell visits two new desalination plants, one in Barcelona, the other on the Thames Estuary.

Both plants use a process called “reverse osmosis” to remove the salt.  Water is forced through a membrane at high pressure, separating water molecules from mineral contaminants.

Critics of desalination point to the need for high energy levels to force the water through the membrane.

Gareth talks to Agua Via, an American company who are developing an atomic-scale membrane that works at atmospheric pressure.  The membrane is still being developed and has not yet been tested on site, but if it works, the force of gravity would be sufficient to drive the water through the membrane.

Finding new sources of clean water is only one part of the solution.  In the UK, leakage from pipes currently runs at billions of litres a day.

Gareth watches a demonstration where small rubber bungs called “platelets” are able to stop leaks. The technology is being developed by Brinker Technology.
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