Turning Ocean Waves Into Drinking Water

Jul 3, 2016

A North Carolina start-up company is testing a device that turns ocean water into fresh drinking water. Their technology uses wave energy exclusively to power reverse osmosis.

Chris Matthews, Justin Sonnett and Laura Smailes co-founded EcoH20 Innovations in 2014, but its inaugural project’s roots go back a year further. Matthews and Sonnett began working on the SAROS desalination device during their senior year at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where they were both studying mechanical engineering.

In May, the team ran their first oceanic test off of Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Sonnett said the results were promising.

"I don’t think either of us really understood kind of the impact of this thing until we actually got what we built on the water and actually made drinking water with it and realized that this could be something that could improve the world," he said.

Matthews said that with this technology, they want to help coastal communities around the world, including those in North Carolina.

"I think that as we see more people starting to care about sustainability and using green energy, we’ll see more facilities that would be a perfect fit for one of our devices," he said. "And I think the Outer Banks, in particular, has a lot of people who have that mindset."

The team will continue testing off Wilmington and Nags Head this summer. They hope to refine their technology in preparation for a pilot study in Puerto Rico later this year.