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Carl N. Hodges, T. Lewis Thompson, John E. Groh, and William D. Sellers


The University of Arizona has developed a sea water desalinization system which can economically utilize low temperature solar energy. The system consists of a horizontal plastic-covered solar collector, a packed-tower evaporator, and a finned-tube surface condenser. Incoming sea water is preheated in the surface condenser and then pumped to the solar collector where it is heated 5 to 10C. The heated sea water is pumped from the collector to the packed-tower evaporator, where a small fraction is evaporated into a circulating air stream and condensed as distilled water in the finned-tube surface condenser.

To evaluate the system a pilot plant has been constructed in cooperation with the University of Sonora at Puerto Peñasco on the Gulf of California. This plant is designed to produce between 2500 and 5000 gallons of fresh water daily.

The energy for evaporation in the system is derived from ocean water heated in the solar collector during the day. In order to allow design optimization for the entire plant the temperatures in the collector must be accurately predicted. It is shown that this can be done by a simple manipulation of the energy balance equation for the collector.

The resulting theory is applied to a number of cases involving a double glazing collector filled with 2 inches of water. Such a collector will utilize about 24 per cent of the available solar energy if the warm water in the collector in the late afternoon is flushed out and stored for nighttime use in the evaporator.

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