The MIDES project aims to revolutionise desalination by developing a sustainable low-energy process of producing safe drinking water, using Microbial Desalination Cells (MDC) as a pretreatment for reverse osmosis (RO). The 48-month EU Horizon 2020 project will run from 2016-2020, to develop the world’s largest demonstrator of the innovative MDC technology. Demonstration sites are currently planned for Chile, Spain and Tunisia.

The need for innovation: As global shortages of fresh water are a growing challenge for societies, desalination is a key option to significantly increase water resources for drinking, industrial use and irrigation. All current desalination technologies require significant electrical or thermal energy, with current (RO) desalination units consuming electric energy of at least 3 kWh/m3. 

To overcome thermodynamical limitations of RO, Microbial Desalination Cells (MDC) concurrently treat wastewater and generate energy to achieve desalination. MDCs can produce around 1.8 kWh of bioelectricity from the handling of 1 cubic metre of wastewater. Such energy can be directly used to completely remove the salt content in seawater without external energy input, or to partially reduce the salinity to lower substantially the amount of energy to complete desalination.

The project will focus on overcoming the current limitations of MDC technology such as low desalination rate, high manufacturing cost, biofouling and scaling problems on membranes, optimization of the microbial-electrochemical process, system scaling up and economic feasibility of the technology.