Desalination is destroying our planet - Deep tech startup Manhat is developing a sustainable alternative

Desalination is destroying our planet - Deep tech startup Manhat is developing a sustainable alternative 

By: Mark Anthony Karam
Interviews

Abu-Dhabi based startup Manhat is working on a solution to the UAE's dependence on desalination, utilizing physical sciences as opposed to energy-intensive IT-based methods.

The challenge of limited natural water resources is one countries in the GCC have always had to contend with. In dry, arid areas such as the Gulf, it is common for regional governments to resort to desalination, the industrial process of removing salt from seawater, to provide their citizens with fresh, potable water. 

Today, GCC countries have the highest global water desalination capacity of 81%, producing around 40% of the total world water desalination, according to a 2020 report by the MENA Desalination Projects Conference.

In the UAE, the situation is no different. 

According to the UAE government, "most of the country's potable water (42 percent of the total water requirement) comes from some 70 major desalination plants, which account for around 14 percent of the world's total production of desalinated water."

As a result of this, and in line with the UAE's overall vision for a better future for its citizens, the government has been looking at alternative methods to safely procure freshwater, while reducing demand and waste, and improving the recyclability of used water to 95%. This all falls under its Water Security Strategy 2036, which was developed from a comprehensive national perspective to cover all elements of the water supply chain in the country with the participation of all entities and authorities concerned with water resources locally.

The reason behind this governmental framework is that desalination is an expensive and energy-intensive process, and one that produces a lot of harmful waste.

Manhat, a deep technology startup established in 2019 and based in Abu Dhabi, is developing a scalable and sustainable solution to the water supply issue. Utilizing solar distillation as opposed to desalination, their product relies "on the natural water cycle which starts with the evaporation of water from open surfaces," Dr. Saeed Alhassan, Founder of Manhat, tells the Abu Dhabi SME Hub. "This molecular water has no salt at all."

Essentially, Manhat's solution revolves around placing a greenhouse construct on a seashore, then relying on solar rays to heat the water till the point of evaporation. After that, the ascending water vapor condenses when it touches the cooler side of the construct, eventually being collected and stored as pure, distilled water, with no resulting waste produced.

 

Dr. Alhassan shares more insights about his exciting new company in the interview below.

dr. saeed alhassan manhat startup uae

Dr. Saeed Alhassan, Founder of Manhat

Given the risks of desalination, why is it more important than ever to find alternative ways to produce freshwater?

We live in a critical time in human history where our actions have directly impacted our planet at all levels. It is upon us also to find solutions for the never-ending balance of human growth and a sustainable planet. That is why we have embarked on this journey to develop technologies that will minimize and sometimes eliminate the side effects of producing water through desalination.

Is Manhat's solution easily and cost-efficiently replicable on a wider scale?

Yes. The technology can be implemented on any shore and can be adopted widely across the globe because we don’t need to use electricity at all in producing water.

What are some potential commercial use cases of your solution?

We are currently targeting high-end water applications and the leisure industry to use this concept in a unique way like the single tree artificial island concept.

manhat sustainable

What are some of the highlights of your entrepreneurial journey so far?

We have completed the development of two prototypes. Additionally, we are at an advanced stage of discussion for installing these prototypes with a government organization. We have secured our patents in the majority of our targeted countries.

How did the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) support your company?

Takamul program under ADDED has been extremely helpful in financially supporting the initial patent filings. Without such initiative, we wouldn’t have been able to reach this far in our journey.

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