American-Made Challenges


Solar Desalination

Expand the utilization of non-traditional sources of water, ensure water security in the U.S. and improve the resilience of infrastructure.
Judging Closed
$1 million grand prize and other awards (TBD)

Challenge Overview

Solar Desalination Prize

The Solar Desalination Prize is a four-phase prize competition that will advance thermal desalination technologies to expand the utilization of non-traditional water sources, ensure water security, and improve the resilience of U.S. infrastructure.


Graphic of the American-Made Challenges framework; Make a plan, design a proof of concept, develop prototype and identify pilot partner.


The Opportunity

Removing salt from water takes a lot of energy! Many of the largest untapped water resources in the US and around the world cannot be cost-effectively used because of high concentrations of dissolved salts.

Water treatment processes, like reverse osmosis, are efficient when salt concentrations are low, but can’t treat high-salt waters like those that are produced from oil and gas wells, concentrated brines, and some industrial and agricultural wastewaters.

Novel thermal desalination technologies can purify water with very high salt content without dramatically increasing the amount of energy required. By using solar thermal as the energy source, desalination technologies could be used in a variety of important environments, especially in arid areas with high sun exposure, where water purification is especially important.


The Prize Structure

The Solar Desalination Prize has a rapid iteration prize structure designed to help entrepreneurs use innovative research to come up with ideas, then design and test concepts, with the end goal of having shovel-ready technology primed for industry adoption.

Millions of dollars in prizes will be awarded over the competition, increasing in value in each phase, culminating in a $1 million grand prize at the end of the competition for successful testing and demonstration of promising solar desalination prototypes.



Challenge Timeline

Sept. 22, 2019, 11 p.m. PDT
Prize announced
Sept. 23, 2019, 5 a.m. PDT
Date Launched
Dec. 31, 2019, 11 p.m. PST
Phase 1 opens
Phase 1 will open in early 2020, this date is subject to change.
April 28, 2020, 7 a.m. PDT
July 16, 2020, noon PDT
Submission Deadline
July 16, 2020, 11 p.m. PDT
Aug. 8, 2020, 9 a.m. PDT
Judging Closed
Sept. 26, 2020, 3:41 a.m. PDT
You are here
Oct. 1, 2020, 8 a.m. PDT
Teaming Contest Open
Jan. 12, 2021, noon PST
Teaming Contest Submission Deadline
March 11, 2021, 11 p.m. PST
Teaming Winning Teams Announced
March 12, 2021, 8 a.m. PST
Design Contest Open
o Open: March 12, 2021
o Submissions accepted: As soon as competitors are ready
o Close: March 12, 2024
March 12, 2021, 8:01 a.m. PST
Test Contest Open
o Open: March 12, 2021
o Submissions accepted: The second Monday in March
o Close: Up to 3 years after the first March after each Design Contest winner is announced
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