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MEDRC awards $90,000 in funding for bio-inspired desalination system

1 Nov 2020

Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) has announced the recipient of a US$90,000 grant under its USAID-backed pathway research grants in desalination. Planet, an Italian startup, has secured the funding to develop their Mangrove Still – a bio-inspired, modular, low-cost easy-to-use, solar desalination system.

The funds are part of MEDRC’s five-year strategic programme launched in 2018 with a goal of driving innovation in small-scale desalination.

The programme, known as the Desalination Challenge, has two tracks of funding – pathway research grants supported by USAID and a US$700,000 global challenge prize known as the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge, led by MEDRC and Oman’s The Research Council – TRC (now under the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation), and funded through the Sultan Qaboos Higher Centre for Culture and Science.

MEDRC’s centre director Ciaran O Cuinn announced the award and met the grant recipients during a kick off meeting held online. 

Speaking at the meeting, he said, “If desalination is to become a viable alternative to fresh water we need to find ways to reduce the costs and environmental impacts of the process. Every day all around us, nature conducts this complex task efficiently with no cost or impact. MEDRC is proud to collaborate with USAID to support Planet as they work to develop bio-inspired transformational solutions to fresh water scarcity.”

The project’s goal is to double the Mangrove Still’s current daily fresh water output of 3.9lt per sqm per day. Planet will combine the grant with US$90,000 in matching funds bringing the total project investment to US$180,000. 

Planet co-founder and principal investigator, Alessandro Villa said, “This grant is hugely important as it will enable us to thoroughly test new materials and processes in a scientific environment, allowing our team to work on increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our solar desalination system.”

The Mangrove Still desalination system could become a modular, low-cost, easy-to-use substitute to energy intensive reverse osmosis desalination units.

The project will focus on investigating five different research paths; efficient materials, energy management, user centred design, zero brine discharge and will look to research and identify emerging technologies and materials that could boost productivity.

The Desalination Challenge Pathway Research Grant programme is a joint initiative led by MEDRC and the US Agency for International Development in cooperation with Oman’s TRC.

MEDRC expects to issue a further call for research proposals before the end of this year, details of which will be on available on its  website –


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