A group of scientists at MIT has developed a portable desalination unit that turns seawater into drinking water at the press of a button.
The new unit weighs about 22 pounds, is the size of a small suitcase, takes less power to run than a cellphone charger, and can be run by a portable solar panel. The scientists, from MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, published information about the desalinator in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The new desalination unit does not use filters or high-pressure pumps that are found on most portable desalinators today. Instead, it uses electrical power to generate drinking water that exceeds the standards set by the World Health Organization. Filters require maintenance and replacement, and high-pressure pumps require large amounts of energy.
The MIT unit uses ion concentration polarization (ICP), applying an electrical field to membranes above and below the channel of water. The membranes repel positively or negatively charged particles including salt molecules, bacteria and viruses, as they flow past. The charged particles are then funneled into another stream of water that is discharged. The process requires only a low-pressure pump that requires very little energy.
Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT and the senior author of the study, said “We worked for years on the physics behind individual desalination processes, but pushing all those advances into a box, building a system and demonstrating it in the ocean” was a meaningful experience.
Because of its ease of use and small size, the new unit can be used in remote areas on land and on ships. The scientists said even a kindergarten student could carry and use it. Read more: