Fernando Fischmann, Founder of Crystal Lagoons and his Sustainable Vision of Water Usage

16 May, 2016 / News
Fernando Fischmann director Fraunhofer original

Not only was he successful in having the technology he used in San Alfonso del Mar being replicated in luxurious developments in the Middle East and the United States, but it has also been the starting point for new innovation models focused on reducing the environmental impact of thermoelectric plants, using the sea as a source of drinking water and maximizing under-used green areas in crowded cities.

Everything started in the 1980’s, when Fernando Fischmann purchased a large plot of land to the North of Algarrobo in Chile, and he came up with an idea that was to become a stroke of genius: a block of 400 apartments by the sea, in an area that was not suitable for swimming, but next to a huge 20-acre man-made lagoon of crystal clear water with a turquoise bottom, with a much higher temperature than is usual for the beaches of the central coast, and that would allow people to practice different water sports.

It was the birth of San Alfonso del Mar, a successful real estate development that, because of its success, finally grew to 1,400 apartments and that, at the same time, marked the starting point for the development of an innovative technology for maintaining large volumes of water drawn from the sea, with very low construction and maintenance costs. This has meant that Fischmann and his company, of which he is Founder and President, have received a number of awards both in Chile and abroad.

The venture grew and the model was quickly replicated in different parts of the world, such as the Middle East and in recent years in the United States, where an agreement was recently reached to build the country’s largest man-made lagoon in Las Vegas.

Fischmann, a biochemist by profession and current Director of the German Fraunhofer Research Institute—a leading authority in Europe with regard to applied sciences—was not wrong when he foresaw that turquoise waters would be a resounding success in the tourism industry.

Sustainable vision

Not long after, Fischmann began to work on lagoons that could be used to give a more efficient use to water and help to reduce the environmental impact on different productive sectors.

This is how he developed the so-called “sustainable cooling technology for industrial processes”, where a large body of water in a closed circuit is used as a pool for cooling thermoelectric plants, and avoiding them having to draw water from lakes and rivers and then release it at a higher temperature. The system was successfully validated last year at Endesa’s San Isidro power station and it opens the possibility of power stations of this kind being built in places away from the coast and river banks, and closer to centers where there is demand.

The idea is that the same hot water, that does not come into contact with the work of the power station, can at the same time be used for the heating of homes etc.

Another development is water desalination technology without using energy, which appears as a strong alternative to face the growing scarcity of fresh drinking water and that will begin to be trialed at pilot plants located in different parts of the world. In fact, one of them will begin to be built this year in Antofagasta. Crystal Lagoons assures that if the model were implemented in 17 thermoelectric plants in the North of the country, the volume of drinking water generated would be similar to what the whole of Chile consumes, at a low cost and without using any additional energy.

Both technologies have been patented in the United States by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) via the Green Technology fast track, because of their environmental contribution to the planet.

Big lagoons to revitalize cities

But Fernando Fischmann does not stop there. He is now embarking with his company, and with students of the Executive MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), on a business model to massify crystal clear lagoons in a large format for public use.

The idea is to improve the quality of life in crowded cities, encouraging social inclusion as well as recreational and sporting activities. This is done by making the most of underused green areas, through gigantic bodies of water. The argument is that these lagoons are a source of employment, they increase the added value of surrounding areas and generate higher income for municipalities because of land tax and ticket sales.

His philosophy was recorded in an interview he granted a year and a half ago, and that was published by the Chilean North American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham): “If you stop innovating, the competition “catches up”. We are not resting on our laurels with what we did, but rather innovating and looking forwards. When the competition emerges, the idea is that we are already at another stage. Innovation is a race”.

Crystal Lagoons is an international innovation company, founded by scientist Fernando Fischmann, which has developed a patent-protected technology that allows the construction and maintenance of unlimited-size crystal clear lagoons at very low costs.

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