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Lesson 2: Building a Desalination Plant

Can you build a desalination plant that changes ocean water into fresh water? You’ll need to know where to use vacuum pumps, water pumps, liquid pipes, and gas pipes so your plant makes fresh water. Get ready to be pumped up.

Here are some definitions to help you in your investigation.

Desalination - turning salt water from the ocean into fresh drinking water

Flash Chamber - a device that holds liquid, turns it into a gas, and holds the gas

Aerosolizer - a device that changes a liquid into a gas

Condenser - a device that changes a gas into a liquid

Doing the Science

  1. Start the Desalination Simulation by clicking on the “Simulation” tab.
  2. Select “Surface” for Warm Water Intake Depth and “200m” for Cold Water Intake Depth, and then select Continue.
  3. Your tasks are listed on-screen between the Fresh Water and Cold Water Reservoirs as well as below in Table 1. Work on each task in order.
  4. In order to connect the Warm Water to the Aerosolizer, scroll over the icon of the appropriate element (pipe or pump). If you need the element to be vertical instead of horizontal, click on the R for rotate.
  5. Drag your element to the dots on the screen. No paths should overlap.
  6. Experiment connecting pumps and pipes on a path from the bottom left hand dot in Warm Water to the middle dot on the Aerosolizer. When you have the correct combination, the task will convert from the Red Incomplete to the Green Complete.
  7. When you have the correct combination, record how many of each element you used in Table 1 below.

Table 1.

Liquid Pipe

Gas Pipe

Water Pump

Vacuum Pump

Warm Water to Aerosolizer

Flash Chamber
Drain to Warm Water Return

Flash Chamber to Condenser

Condenser Drain to Fresh Water

Condenser Gas Outlet (Off Screen)

Cold Water Intake to Condenser

Condenser to Cold Water Return

Do You Understand?

  1. What is the purpose of an aerosolizer in the plant?


  2. What is the purpose of the condenser in the plant?


  3. Does aerosolizing particles increase or decrease the energy of the particles? Please support your answer with a reason.


  4. Does condensing particles increase or decrease the energy of the particles? Please support your answer with a reason.


  5. In which location would the particles have the greatest amount of energy? Please support your answer with a reason.


  6. In which location would the particles have the slowest motion? Please support your answer with a reason.


  7. At which location(s) in the plant does energy have to be added to complete a given process?


  8. How does a pipeline that carries a gas differ from a pipeline that carries a liquid?


  9. What is the purpose of a vacuum pump?