Reverse Osmosis Brine Treatment R&D

Fountain Valley, CA, and Alamogordo, NM


PACE’s Research and Development (R&D) team developed a new photobiological process for the treatment of reverse osmosis (RO) concentrate to recover more usable water and reduce the volume of waste brine for disposal. The project received two federal grant awards from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) through the Pitch to Pilot program and the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program.


PACE conducted several bench- and pilot-scale experiments on this unique patented photobiological process that utilizes diatoms to rapidly remove inorganic scalants and nutrients and enhances freshwater recovery from RO concentrate. The NSF SBIR Phase I study focused on process optimization, organic matter characterization, and secondary RO feasibility. The USBR study investigated the issue of scalability by designing, constructing, and operating a 1,500-gallon photobioreactor at the USBR’s Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) in Alamogordo, NM. These research efforts proved the effectiveness of the technology and the ability to operate the process at a commercial scale with real-life applications.


Key Features:

  • Recovers more usable water (95%+)
  • Reduces RO concentrate/brine discharge (~5%)
  • Reduces excess nutrients, scalants, and microconstituents (e.g., pharmaceuticals and personal care products) – Up to 99%
  • Nutrients available in RO concentrate and uses natural sunlight for lower cost
  • Minimal mechanical equipment and operator friendly
  • Reduces environmental impacts of water reuse and brackish water desalination
  • Reduces nutrient loading, captures CO2
  • Generates beneficial algal biomass for energy production, animal feed, and fish feed

United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) & National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program

Advanced Water Quality / Piloting