Case 14703

Photovoltaic Reverse Osmosis System with Thermal Management


Reverse osmosis, photovoltaic temperature control, heat exchanger


Desalination of brackish ground water and seawater in sunlit environments

  • Solar panel conversion efficiency decreases with increasing temperature
  • The amount of energy required to desalinate water increase as temperature of the feed water decreases


This invention uses photovoltaic panels (PV) to power reverse-osmosis water filtration. A thermal controller maximizes the clean water produced by a PV/RO system by managing the temperatures of the PV panel and the RO feed water in response to changes in the incoming solar radiation, ambient air temperature and source water temperature. In this system, a circulating pump drives the source water through both a heat exchanger mounted on the back of the PV panel and a controllable bypass valve. The circulation pump and the bypass valve settings are determined by the solar panel and RO feed water temperatures. A prototype has been built and tested.


Allows use of PV sunlight concentrators in front of the PVs, which improves the total efficiency by 56%

  • Professor Steven Dubowsky (Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT)
  • Amy M. Bilton (Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT)
  • Leah C. Kelley (Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT)

Intellectual Property:

US Patent Application Number 13/032896, filed on February 23, 2011

PCT Patent Application Number PCT/US2012/025194, filed on February 15, 2012



Last revised: April 30, 2013

»List of MIT Energy IP«