logoCould desalination help solve China’s chronic water shortages? Nano H2O, a VC-backed US company  thinks so and its building a factory in China to help prove its point.

Reverse-osmosis desalination has traditionally been an expensive and energy-intensive process of getting drinking water from  seawater. The technology has typically had to be imported, which for China, which nurtures dreams of technology self-sufficiency,  is another  drawback.

Nano H2O, a  VC-backed US company specialized in desalination technology, hopes to change all that with an innovative new membrane material which will be manufactured at a site in Liyang, 150 miles west of Shanghai.

NanoH2O will dedicate up to 25%  of the capacity in the new plant to China and the rest for exports, mainly to southeastern Asia and India.

Based on nanostructured materials and polymer technology, NanoH2O’s QuantumFlux membranes dramatically improve desalination energy efficiency and productivity, so lowering a desalination plant’s energy costs.

The Chinese government is looking to increase its seawater reverse-osmosis desalination capacity threefold by 2015. Its latest Five-Year Plan calls for 70%  of the equipment used in desalination plants to be produced domestically, according to NanoH2O.

The 10,000-square-meter factory comes at a total investment of $45m and is expected to be operational by the end of 2014.

More on China’s big bet on desalination in this BBC story