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Water and energy

Solar Photovoltaics

IMDEA Water is exploring the potential of integrating solar photovoltaic technologies in water treatment processes to solve the problem of safe drinking water access and/or wastewater treatment, by developing clean and sustainable solutions for both industrial and rural applications, increasing the systems efficiencies, reducing costs, saving energy, making water treatment systems accessible to communities with limited resources and infrastructures (especially in developing countries and/or rural or isolated areas in Europe with limited access), or improving water-drinking access in emergency situations.

Photovoltaic-photochemical hybrid solar systems

Conventional natural UV disinfection systems only use 5% of the total available solar energy. They also need an extra source of energy to feed the system pumps to recirculate the water, so their use is very limited. IMDEA Water is working in a new concept for a hybrid system that integrates photovoltaic solar cells in conventional natural UV disinfection systems, using natural UV light for water disinfection and visible and near-infrared light for simultaneous electricity generation, utilizing the solar spectrum more efficiently. The main objective of the new system is to increase the total solar spectrum conversion efficiency by using each part of the spectrum for the mechanism that is more efficient on it, so jointly improving the total efficiency.

Clean water sensors for solar disinfection (SODIS)

Solar water disinfection systems use the sun energy to heat the water and/or use directly the germicide effect of natural UV light. Direct exposure of plastic bottles filled with water to the sun (SODIS) is one of the most common methods for solar disinfection in developing countries, along with blackening of containers for increasing energy collection for solar pasteurization. But the main drawback of these systems, especially suitable for developing countries, is that there are no low cost sensors that indicate when the water is clean and safe to drink. In this project we use photovoltaic solar cells as low cost clean water sensors, measuring solar global irradiance, UV irradiance and temperature, and integrating these sensors with low-cost monitoring systems based in open-hardware.

Monitoring of autonomous photovoltaic systems

In recent years, the rapid evolution of renewable energies and photovoltaic technologies has led to the proliferation of several photovoltaic installations around the world. In the case of stand-alone PV (SAPV) systems, are limited by size and cost factors, being often located in remote locations and / or in developing countries. Unfortunately, once the installation of these systems is completed, it is very difficult to monitor the proper functioning of these systems. The goal of this work is to develop a low cost system based on open source tools for the monitoring of photovoltaic systems, specifying in autonomous photovoltaic systems, with a reliability and accuracy that comply with existing regulations.

Water and Energy Lab

Water and Energy LabBiology and Microbiology Lab

Biology and Microbiology Lab


A new generation of Microbial Electrochemical Wetland for effective decentralized wastewater treatment (iMETland)​​


iMETland project aims at unleashing the small community economies potential through innovative wastewater treatments technologies, creating a virtuous circle connecting water, energy, ICT , land resources and safeguarding the environment.  The project maximises the innovation potential of the following technical features, to be tested and validated at four different geographical locations: Mediterranean (Spain), North-Europe (Denmark), South-America (Argentina) and North-America (Mexico).

iMETland innovation stands in the balanced integration of technologies, which are wisely amalgamated in the environment. Exploiting the combination of water sector, energy, ICT and land resources, the project paves the way to solve small communities wastewater treatment needs in a cost effective, energy efficient and environmental friendly manner. 

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 642190.

Más informaciónhttp://www.imetland.eu  - Youtube video

Unión Europea - Horizon 2020


Microbial Desalination for Low Energy Drinking Water (MIDES)​​

MIDESShortage of fresh water has become one of the major challenges for societies all over the world. Water desalination offers an opportunity to significantly increase the freshwater supply for drinking, industrial use and irrigation. All current desalination technologies require significant electrical or thermal energy, with today's Reverse Osmosis (RO) desalination units consuming electric energy of at least 3 kWh/m3 – in extensive tests about ten years ago, the Affordable Desalination Collaboration (ADC) in California measured 1.6 kWh/m3 for RO power consumption on the best commercially available membranes, and total plant energy about twice as high.

To overcome thermodynamical limitations of RO, which point to 1.09 kwh/m3 for seawater at 50 % recovery, Microbial Desalination Cells (MDC) concurrently treat wastewater and generate energy to achieve desalination. MDCs can produce around 1.8 kWh of bioelectricity from the handling of 1 m3 of wastewater. Such energy can be directly used to i) totally remove the salt content in seawater without external energy input, or ii) partially reduce the salinity to lower substantially the amount of energy for a subsequent desalination treatment.

MIDES aims to develop the World’s largest demonstrator of an innovative and low-energy technology for drinking water production, using MDC technology either as stand-alone or as pre-treatment step for RO.

The project will focus on overcoming the current limitations of MDC technology such as low desalination rate, high manufacturing cost, biofouling and scaling problems on membranes, optimization of the microbial-electrochemical process, system scaling up and economic feasibility of the technology. This will be achieved via innovation in nanostructured electrodes, antifouling membranes (using nanoparticles with biocide activity), electrochemical reactor design and optimization, microbial electrochemistry and physiology expertise, and process engineering and control.

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 685793.

Más informaciónhttp://midesh2020.eu/

Unión Europea - Horizon 2020



Integrated Research about sustainable Island (IISIS)

The goal of the project IISIS assimilates the latest architectural trends based on biomimicry to give a step in the challenge of building sustainable environments. A strict balance with ecological conservation, sustainability and sustainable energy and resources is maintaining in any moment. On this purpose the project will employ marine renewables especially designed for use on the island, complete water treatment and waste control designed to fulfil the goal of zero discharge, improve performance and optimize the operation of the island through a combination of new bioclimatic configurations adapted to local conditions produced in the marine environment where they take place.

Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad



Wastewater treatment in second generation bioelectrogenic wetlands: The "smart" wetlands (SMART WETLAND)

Project funded by the INNPACTO program (2012-2015) which aims to incorporate microbial electrochemical technologies for natural treatment systems for wastewater treatment in small populations.

Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad



Technology research for treatment, reuse and control for future sustainability in water treatment (ITACA)

The principal aim is the investigation of new industrial and urban technologies of waste water treatment that allow, in an efficient and sustainable way, to turn the process of current treatment into a strategy for the reutilization, the utilization of substances, by-products and residues and the energetic valuation, minimizing, the impacts on the natural environment.

Inside the project scope there is also included the parallel investigation of advanced systems of measurement, automation and control of the processes of treatment and valuation, which guarantee the achievement of a system of centralized management which resolves, in an automatic and autonomous way, the sequence and control of new effluent treatment being studied.

More informationhttp://itaca.adasasistemas.com/Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad




New techniques for wastewater treatment (AQUAELECTRA) 


This collaborative project has three objectives: to develop a new concept of sewage treatment by constructing electrogenic wetlands, to establish a bioelectrogenic anaerobic treatment for wastewater and to design a novel electrochemical bioreactor for removal of nutrients (nitrogen).

The bioelectrogenesis is a novel process by which certain bacteria can oxidize organic matter and transfer the electrons directly to a conductive solid, like graphite. In this way you can obtain and store clean energy.

The consortium has been formed with intention to accelerate the development of this new technology, using a strategy of adaptation of these bioelectrochemical devices to existing designs in water treatment plants.

AQUAELECTRA researchers have developped a electrically conductive biofilter for wastewater treatment, for which already a patent of invention has been requested. More information about this biofilter.


Bacterial wiring for energy conversion and bioremediation (BACWIRE)


The aim of the project is to develop a new paradigm for the simultaneous cogeneration of energy and bioremediation using electro-active bacteria. A new nano-structured transducer that efficiently connects to these bacteria will be developed, aimed at the production of devices with higher performance across a range of applications including microbial fuel cells, whole cell biosensors and bioreactors.

Elucidation of mechanisms by which bacteria transport electrons to solid electrodes is crucial. In this way, well-defined surfaces of single crystals and multilayered gold deposits on quartz elements will be used to resolve the interfacial electrochemistry of both, bacteria and isolated bacterial surface redox molecules. The spatial distribution of cytochromes in the cell surface will be determined by AFM and those involved in the electric connection to electrodes will be studied in detail.

More information: http://www.bacwire.eu/Unión EuropeaSeventh Framework Programme


Elimination of sulfate in water by bioelectrogenic methods (BIO-SO4)

Project funded by the INNPACTO program (2012-2015) which aims to apply microbial electrochemical technologies to reuse brackish water with high sulfate content.

Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad



Electricity and Hydrogen Production Based on Residual Water Bacteria

The main goal of this research proposal is to use Geobacter to convert the chemical energy stored in organic matter from wastewater into electricity and hydrogen. One of the most exciting features of this technology is the possibility of harvesting clean energy from waste during its treatment, so the classical methane-generating stage in wastewater treatment could be eliminated.

Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación


Biology and Microbiology Lab


IMDEA water collaborates in the Spanish Geothermal Technology Platform (GEOPLAT) participating actively in different working groups: shallow geothermal, deep geothermal, geothermal resources research, regulatory framework and training. IMDEA Water takes part of the working Group of AENOR, which is currently developing a regulation applicable in shallow geothermal energy. Also, IMDEA Water participates in the Renewable Heating & Cooling European Technology Platform (RHC). The Aim of IMDEA Water is to investigate geothermal energy from the point of view of water, because in all the different exploitation techniques for deep geothermal (flash plants, binary cycle plants, GS, etc.) and shallow geothermal (open loop, closed loop with heat exchanges etc.), water plays an essential role as vehicle for energy transport, being also groundwater the principal heat storage agent.