Watershed Moment


Chris Matthews (’14) and Justin Sonnett (’14)

It’s called SAROS and stands for “Swell Actuated Reverse Osmosis System.” While the full name may not roll off the tongue, it certainly is descriptive. And it’s on the verge of becoming something very big. 

Meet Chris Matthews and Justin Sonnett, graduates from the class of 2014 and co-founders of the desalination prototype that seeks to answer the world’s water supply issues. The two first became acquainted as mechanical engineering students at UNC Charlotte and worked together on their senior design project. Their lofty goal? Prove it’s possible to perform reverse osmosis using the renewable energy of waves. Thus, SAROS was born. 

SAROS detailed process

(Pictured, above: The SAROS process overview)

The ingenious design is in the form of a buoy that contains a pump, energized by waves, which sends water to land where the reverse osmosis process removes salt, sand, bacteria and viruses. Read about the detailed process or hear it straight from the sources

Many isolated islands and coastal communities don't have access to clean water. They’re surrounded by water, yet unable to drink it. Worldwide, nearly 800 million people lack access to fresh water and another 233 million are experiencing water shortage. 

Current desalination plants are expensive and use fossil fuels or large amounts of electricity to operate. Matthews and Sonnett hope SAROS will supply clean water, expand the water supply, preserve ecological and environmental needs of communities and address economic issues of energy and water pricing.

SAROS has garnered accolades and awards from the U.S. Green Build and the Future Technologies of Water and is receiving attention from innovation publications like Fast Company, Yahoo! Tech and Trendhunter. 

Matthews and Sonnett are currently on their second prototype and will set up a full pilot through private fundraising. They’ve also received assistance from Fred Wagner, partner at Charlotte-based business development firm Enventys, have an advisory board with representation from Duke Energy, Shaw Nuclear and additional partners like Sustain Charlotte and CLT Joules. 

Kudos to these alums for creating innovative solutions to solve real-world issues. Stay tuned.

Want to help?

SAROS just launched a campaign with Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site developed specifically for entrepreneurs.  All funds go toward research, development and implementing pilot studies. 

Click here to donate via Indiegogo

Learn more in this recent article by Fast Co. Exist.