Portable desalination device could provide endless supply of safe drinking water

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are actively working on a portable desalination device capable of efficiently producing drinking water from seawater. Hope to fight against shortages around the world.

The climate crisis, which is slowly but surely taking hold across the world, is already beginning to have very harmful consequences on human life. Drought, in particular, is contributing to growing shortages of drinking water in different parts of the world, which is prompting many scientists to look into ways of bringing drinking water to where it is urgently needed. to provide it .

It is in this context that a team of researchers from MIT, led by Junghyo Yoon, has developed a relatively compact device capable of desalinating seawater . Named ICPWaterTech , the machine, which is currently in prototype form, does not filter salt water: instead, it uses a technique called ionic concentration polarization (ICP). This means that it applies an electric field to the water , which repels positively and negatively charged particles. This includes salt molecules, but also bacteria and viruses.

As this process is not sufficient to completely remove all salt particles, the researchers supplemented it with an electrodialysis step . The water that comes out of the machine after these two treatments is not only freed of its salt, but it is also purified to make it perfectly fit for consumption.

The MIT prototype is currently capable of producing drinking water up to 0.3 liters per hour : it’s not much, but it’s only the beginning. Moreover, the other advantage of the device is that it only consumes 20 watt hours per liter of desalinated water , which allows it to operate using a simple portable solar panel. The video below shows the device in operation.

This system, presented for the first time in 2021, received an award last year from the J-WAFS (Abdul Latif Jameel Water & Food Systems Lab) as part of World Water Day. Various prizes are awarded each year to scientific projects related to our planet’s most vital resource.

Scientists and engineers at MIT now plan to improve their performance of their machine and work on a marketable version , which could see the light of day in the years to come. It is certain that such a device could be of great help in many parts of the world in the coming decades.

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