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Many, La., engineer partners with University of Texas El Paso on desalination technology

Kate Archer Kent

A Many, Louisiana, engineer who has worked to refine a solar-powered desalination process over the past eight years has entered into a partnership with University of Texas El Paso to market the technology to industrial customers. 

Hill Kemp says this agreement with UTEP is important because the university is heavily involved in research to turn salty water into clean drinking water. UTEP is seeking a licensing partner, Kemp says, who will give this condensation method a chance.

“This technology has a 2,300-year bad reputation. There are a lot of people who are very skeptical to do anything with solar,” Kemp said, who was a semifinalist in last year’s worldwide Desal Prize created by USAID. “We’ve shown it -- certified by the federal government -- in our testing units. The market is going to have to see it working and see people reaping the benefits.”

UTEP licensing specialist Jeni Clark says the water desalination equipment marketplace is currently estimated to be $600 billion globally. It’s big business. But these inventors hope that this cost-effective and relatively simple purification method can be a viable alternative to the dominant reverse osmosis method.

“When you have a breakthrough like this some people can be skeptical, so we have to get them to pay attention. We think it will be key to identify one licensing partner in the beginning and then we can go to limited licenses for other users,” Clark said.

UTEP civil engineering professor Shane Walker has worked closely with Kemp at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico. They share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work to advance novel technology that purifies brackish groundwater and makes it safe for drinking.

“Hill and I both share a heart to help people get clean water around the world. I think this is an exciting first step where we can help people with high-quality purified water that can be used for industrial purposes or for drinking water supply,” Walker said.

Kemp says the partners have identified more than 200 companies in the El Paso area that have in-house water treatment facilities that could use this solar-powered desalination method.

Kemp says he first approached his alma mater LSU to form a public-private partnership for commercialization but was rejected.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' experience to Red River Radio having started out as a radio news reporter and moving into television journalism as a newsmagazine producer / host, talk-show moderator, programming director and managing producer and news director / anchor for commercial, public broadcasting and educational television. He has more recently worked in advertising, marketing and public relations as a writer, video producer and media consultant. In pursuit of higher learning, Chuck studied Mass Communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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