Foivos Perakis wants to secure safe and clean water in the Nordics with cryo-desalination

Climate change creates challenges for ensuring safe water even in the Nordics. Research Pitching Competition 2018 finalist Foivos Perakis from Stockholm University wants to explore how salt and water separate at the molecular level to generate freshwater from frozen seawater.


Research Pitching Competition looks for ideas that bring something new to the table. What’s new about your idea?

In the future there will be a huge challenge to ensure safe and clean water for everyone. In my research I want to create a dialogue between scientific fields that typically remain isolated from each other in the study of water. That means combining molecular and social studies of water. Also, there isn’t existing much knowledge of the cryo-desalination potential for Nordic cities. Cryo-desalination means separating the salt by freezing, which is a method that could be useful especially in Nordics. I want to increase knowledge of this method.

In your research idea the main method is separation of water and salt upon freezing. How this would happen in practice?

We want to understand the atomic-level behaviour of water and use X-ray diffraction to investigate the salt-water separation in various ice forms. Our case study would be in Stockholm, as a model of a Nordic city. From the societal point of view we would do field observations and interviews with experts in Stockholm to understand how cryo-desalination could be used in the city. I want to advance knowledge on cryo-desalination potential for Nordic cities to generate freshwater from frozen seawater.

What made you want to get on Slush stage and pitch your work?

I’m sure this will be a useful experience to learn to explain my work to a big audience. Also, I’m hoping this experience can give me new perspective towards my own work. It can crystallize my own motivation and purpose as a researcher.

Where do you see yourself as a researcher in 10 years?

I hope I’ll have my own research group that investigates water and the way it interacts with different systems. For example how water interacts with ions on a biological level or how water works inside of a cell. I want to understand water in different ways and get new views on hydration. I am excited about applying creativity in physics and research.

Foivos’ wild idea:

New water innovations are needed to secure freshwater supply for human use, even at the Nordics that are typically perceived as water secure nations. Cryo-desalination, the separation of water-salt upon freezing, is a rapidly expanding field of water innovation and research with potential to address the challenge of expanding access to clean and safe water. However, there are still important gaps both in fundamental understanding and societal implementation. We propose a novel interdisciplinary approach which combines basic research with social sciences, and thereby bridges the two fields of knowledge, with water as the common element. Our objective is to push the knowledge boundaries on cryo-desalination as a potentially transformative water innovation for the Nordics that can generate freshwater from frozen seawater.