A Q&A with the UN2023Gamechanger Challenge Winners

Team “Algeanius” was named the winner of the UN2023 Gamechanger Challenge with their Green Gold concept to desalinate seawater in a sufficient and sustainable way. Here is how that concept became a reality, according to the four team members – Meinke van Oenen and Mare de Wit from the Netherlands, Ayanda Mafunda of South Africa, and Samah Iqtaish of Jordan.

How did you come up with the concept?

Meinke – I have always been interested in water, since I am from the Netherlands. I have been passionate about renewable energy systems and that is my focus for my studies. The idea really came from those experiences.

How would you describe your solution?

Meinke - The green gold that defeats salt! Halophilic algae can desalinate seawater up to 90% dependent on the treatment period. It is a vast improvement over current methods to desalinate water, such as reversed osmosis, which are energy intensive.

Mare - Our solution gets to the root of the problem – climate mitigation. One big plus is that it’s not a very complicated system: you let nature do its job.

What kind of impact can this system have?

Mare – The implementation of this technology gives us perspective that we can achieve a green golden future.

Meinke – It has many positive benefits because it is a low-energy, economically beneficial, and circular desalination technology.

Ayanda – One additional impact is that the waste can be upcycled into biofuel and nutritional supplements.

Samah – Because it is natural, it also produces oxygen and takes in carbon dioxide, in addition to desalinating.

You only met each other two weeks before working together and live in different countries. How difficult was this project?

Ayanda – Not that difficult. We all share similar interests and have many things in common. The idea is something we are very familiar with. So, we just met on video conferences to discuss the idea and worked together that way.

Why did you enter the contest?

Samah – I am an architectural engineer with a focus on green buildings so the environment is very important to me. I want to be involved in as many different aspects as possible.

Mare – I have been involved in desalination through my professional career. The contest was a natural fit for me to enter and this project was perfect.

What’s next for Green Gold?Meinke – We are hoping to take it to the next step through a partnership with academia for research. We also hope to find a company that would be interested in developing this as a solution.