They’re building a suitcase-sized seawater desalination plant

It weighs just 10 pounds, like a car wheel, charges faster than a cell phone, costs $50 (48.03 euros), and can make water drinkable without the need for expensive filters or high-pressure pumps.. This is the latest tool by a group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to design and build a system after a decade of studying the physics behind potabilization processes. portable and inexpensive desalination plant, the size of a small suitcase.

It is the first of its kind and represents a real revolution for the industry. With this tool, converting salt water to drinking water requires just the push of a button. Unlike other portable desalination devices that must pass the water through a series of filters in order to operate, this device only needs electrical power to remove harmful particles from the water and thus make the water drinkable.

This new tool has two advantages over its competitors in the market: it requires less long-term maintenance and can be downsized without sacrificing energy efficiency. “We have been working for a decade to understand the physics behind individual desalination processes”Explains Jongyoon Han, an electrical engineer and lead author of this new technical study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Once they’ve made things clear, “we put all these advancements in a box, we built a system, and we verified it works when used in the ocean,” evaluates Han, who emphasizes that the experience is “really rewarding.”

View of the desalination plant M Scott Brauer

Operation of this device It is based on a technique that this research group calls ion concentration polarization (ICP).. Instead of filtering the water, the ICP process applies electricity through membranes placed above and below the water. The membranes repel positively or negatively charged particles as they pass, allowing the removal of salt molecules, bacteria, and viruses.

The charged particles are diverted to a second water stream, which is finally discharged. “While it is true that some contaminant particles can be trapped in the ion exchange membrane, it only takes reversing the polarity of the electric field to remove them,” says Yoon.

The two authors of the invention M Scott Brauer

The device is designed in such a way that anyone can use it with the push of a button. The desalination process starts automatically and When the salinity level and the particle count drop to certain thresholds, the device notifies the user that the water is safe to drink.

Half an hour of drinking water

This portable desalination plant was first tested in Carson Beach, Boston (USA). The scientists placed the box near the shore and threw the feeding tube onto the shore. Within half an hour, the device had filled a plastic glass with clean, potable water. “To our equal excitement and surprise, he passed his first test,” stresses Han, insisting that this milestone is the result of “the accumulation of small advances over a decade of research.”

The water that filled that glass exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) quality ratings. and in record time: in an hour he had already obtained 300 milliliters. That’s why pioneers think this tool could revolutionize the way water is managed around the world and help manage water purification in countries with fewer resources.

At least 2 billion people worldwide use a contaminated drinking water source.844 million people lack even a basic drinking water supply service. This contaminated water can transmit diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever and polio. It is estimated that contaminated drinking water causes more than 502,000 deaths from diarrhea each year.

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