The desalination equipment prototype in question, Source: Porto Municipality

Porto researchers develop sustainable desalination equipment for small-scale use

Porto researchers develop sustainable desalination equipment for small-scale use

This is happening in the context of the most severe winter drought the country has experienced this century

The month of February in Portugal has gone on record as the driest one this century after it has exceeded the previous worst impact in 2005 when drought covered 77% of the national territory. This time, it’s 91%, a disastrous situation that has not been experienced in over six decades. What’s worse is that this kind of warmer and rainless winter is becoming an increasingly common occurrence, likely as a result of climate changes.

In this context, the Institute of Science and Innovation in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering, in Porto, informed that its researchers have developed a new, more sustainable and compact desalination system, which can turn saltwater into drinkable water.

Seawater is, at least, an endless resource for Portugal

The equipment “uses solar thermal energy and vapour compression technology to turn saltwater into drinking water”, using two systems at the same time: a solar thermal collector and a desalination subsystem.

Saline water desalination is a solution to deal with the shortage of drinking water, but it is still a high-cost and energy-intensive process. The technology we are developing introduces renewable energy, thus bypassing these obstacles,” explained Szabolcs Varga, a researcher working on the project, speaking to Lusa news agency.

The prototype was designed to be applied at a local and community level, and its maintenance and use are “simple and easy”. Experimental tests will be carried out with the future objective of “optimizing, changing and improving” the system.

The drought situation had become so dire that earlier this month, the Portuguese government ordered some hydropower dams to temporarily limit water use for electricity production and irrigation, prioritising human consumption instead.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU