Energy-Producing Water Filtration System
Inventor: Ben Mattes
Day job: Founder and CEO, Santa Fe Science and Technology, Inc.
His all-time favorite invention: The personal computer.
How his invention could affect our lives: “It is entirely renewable energy,” Mattes says.
There is no patent: “We need more of this technology in this world,” Mattes says of his decision not to patent his invention. “I have an open-hands policy on this. I share it with everybody. It’s such a good thing that I think that everyone realizes it can help people…that’s why I do this. I don’t think it should belong to one person. I think it would be wonderful if everyone else could do this.
Meet the inventor: Around 2004, Ben Mattes knew something had to change. For years, his company had been developing cutting-edge, experimental products for military use, but when funding from the federal government began drying up soon after the Iraq war began, Mattes switched his game plan.
Mattes’ company, Santa Fe Science and Technology, Inc., began working on a product to harness the power of freshwater as it mixes with saltwater, which creates pressure and can be used to power turbines.
In Mattes’ office on Richards Lane, he shows a video to illustrate. Imagine a water pitcher with a flat porous sheet set vertically in the middle. Pour fresh water in one side of the pitcher, saltwater in the other. What will happen is the fresh water will pass through the sheet, mixing with the saltwater and increasing the amount of salt water. When it rises and overflows, the now-diluted saltwater creates a waterfall effect that can be used like water in a hydroelectric dam.
Mattes’ company is developing a filter that goes between the freshwater and saltwater, using fibers that are packed more densely than the membranes currently being used and which can push more water through than the current technology.
Mattes’ filtration system is slated for installation in a Norwegian power plant in the next 12 to 18 months. The energy produced has the potential to account for 10 percent of the country’s energy consumption.
“Let’s put it this way,” Mattes says, “if you can save 10 percent of energy costs, it would improve people’s lives by being a green technology that wouldn’t pollute.” SFR