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Researchers discovered the Tennessee cavesnail, Antrorbis tennesseensis, in caves near Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The snail measures in at less than 2 millimeters long. Credit: Nathaniel Shoobs and Matthew Niemiller

Sometimes conducting big science means discovering a species not much larger than a grain of sand.

Water and energy are inextricably linked, yet in our 20th-century water systems we use freshwater once then throw it away. With innovations designed to enhance desalination technologies, agricultural runoff, produced water from industry, and inland brackish groundwater that are now seen as untreatable could all be sources of clean, safe, and affordable water.

The National Alliance for Water Innovation, a partnership of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, other national labs, university and private sector partners, has been awarded a five-year, $100 million Energy-Water Desalination Hub by DOE to address water security issues in the United States.

Desalination process

A new method developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory improves the energy efficiency of a desalination process known as solar-thermal evaporation. 

ORNL collaborator Hsiu-Wen Wang led the neutron scattering experiments at the Spallation Neutron Source to probe complex electrolyte solutions that challenge nuclear waste processing at Hanford and other sites. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State University teamed up to investigate the complex dynamics of low-water liquids that challenge nuclear waste processing at federal cleanup sites.

Desalination diagram

A team of scientists led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory used carbon nanotubes to improve a desalination process that attracts and removes ionic compounds such as salt from water using charged electrodes.