A partnership between MIT and the Indian company Jain Irrigation Systems has created a method to turn salt water into drinkable.
The system uses electrodialysis and has a simple explanation: the salt is dissolved in water and becomes particles with positive and negative electric charges. To remove these particles, the system uses electric membranes that attract the charges as if they were magnets.
“It works like an electric circuit. The ions are pulled out of the water toward the electrodes, “Natasha Wright, Ph.D., at MIT and one of the creators of the system, explained to the Globe. According to Wright, only 5% of water is lost in this process.
Desalination is done through batteries similar to those of cars and trucks. They are charged during the day using panels that capture solar energy.
A unit of the system is able to supply water to irrigate a small farm or to meet the needs of a population of five thousand people.
Despite the focus on developing countries, the invention may also be important for large metropolitan areas.
The invention has won a challenge from USAID, an agency of the US government that deals with populations that are in need. The challenge was to create a simple and inexpensive system to provide clean water to rural communities in developing countries.