Innovative Researchers Use The Sun To Make Saltwater Drinkable

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has invented a device that takes the salt out of water by way of solar energy.

Five teams entered the deserts of New Mexico in early April to see who could develop the most energy-efficient, inexpensive and ultimately effective way to solve the global water crisis, The Boston Globe reports.

MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering and half of the two-person team, Amos Winter, said,

It's a 2 billion-person problem. That's a pretty motivating problem.

Traditional methods involve a lot of electricity, which isn't good because such resources are sparse in areas that need clean water the most.

Reverse osmosis is a popular desalination tool as well, but its powerful pumps end up wasting about 40 percent of the water.

The device created by Winter and doctoral student Natasha Wright, on the other hand, is based on what is known as electrodialysis.

This uses electrically charged membranes to pull out the salt and wastes only 5 percent of the water used.

Instead of relying on electricity for power, the system revolves around lead-acid batteries that store energy absorbed by solar panels.

The energy stored throughout each day allows the system to power itself around the clock.

Its daily production is said to be enough water for 5,000 people to drink and even cook with.

All five teams put their devices to the test two weekends ago by making them run nonstop for two 24-hour cycles.

Winter and Wright's creation yielded 2,100 gallons of water -- enough to irrigate a farm.

Another 66 gallons were turned into drinking water after being cleansed of bacteria using an ultraviolet cleaning system.

Wright said,

Our solar array was working perfectly.

The results of the contest will be announced any day now, with $125,000 going to the first-prize winner.

Second place will be awarded $50,000 and third will get $25,000.

The most successful teams will also be considered for up to $400,000 in federal funding, allowing them to erect their systems in a third-world nation.

Citations: MIT team makes clean water from the sun (The Boston Globe)