Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

MIT's Solar-Powered Desalination Machine Could Help Drought-Stricken Communities

Business

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jain Irrigation Systems have come up with a method of turning brackish water into drinking water using renewable energy. With parts of the planet running dangerously low on fresh water, this technology can't come soon enough.

Drought solution? A invention from MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems can turn salt water into clean drinking water using solar energy.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

This solar-powered machine is able to pull salt out of water and further disinfect the water with ultraviolet rays, making it suitable for irrigation and drinking. As the MIT News Office explained, "Electrodialysis works by passing a stream of water between two electrodes with opposite charges. Because the salt dissolved in water consists of positive and negative ions, the electrodes pull the ions out of the water, leaving fresher water at the center of the flow. A series of membranes separate the freshwater stream from increasingly salty ones."

Called a "photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis reversal system," the technology recently won the top $140,000 Desal Prize from the U.S. Department of Interior (USID) that recognizes innovators who create cost-effective, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable desalination technologies that can provide potable water for humans and water for crops in developing countries, the USID announced.

The USID said that the MIT-Jain system is designed for low-energy consumption and helps reduce costs for underdeveloped areas that do not have easy access to electricity. "By 2050, global water demand is expected to increase by 55 percent, and 70 percent of global water use occurs in food production," said Christian Holmes, USAID's Global Water Coordinator, in a statement. "The Desal Prize was developed to supply catalytic funding to capture and support the innovative ideas and new technologies that could have a significant impact."

Jain Irrigation Systems noted that with this technology, water recovery is above 90 percent and the 5-10 percent reject concentrate is dried in a solar pond without creating any environmental hazard. It also removes hardness as well as salts and chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers as well as micro-organisms.

"This technology has the potential to bring agriculture to vast barren lands using brackish water," said Richard Restuccia, Jain's vice president of Landscape Solutions.

According to the MIT News Office, this electrodialysis system provides fresh water for about half the energy required by a reverse-osmosis system (another water purification method that removes particles from drinking water via a semi-permeable membrane). Ultimately, the electrodialysis system could supply enough water for 2,000 to 5,000 people, the project's researchers found. The technology has already been tested in several villages in especially water-pinched India.

"Jain is committed to address water challenges being faced by India and other nations and will continue to inspire innovation to bring affordable and sustainable solutions for the benefit to citizens and farmers alike," said Jain managing director Anil Jain.

Using desalination to solve the planet's fresh water worries isn't a new idea (nor is the concept of solar-powered desalination), but the reason it hasn't taken off is because it's expensive and requires a lot of energy. However, as we previously reported, in recent years, the cost of desalinized water has come down significantly and is comparable in price to conventional water sources.

Currently, there are 13 desalination projects under consideration along the California coast including the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which will be the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere once it's completed this fall.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Alaskan Entrepreneur Wants to Sell Bulk Water Shipments to Drought-Stricken California

This Is What Epic Drought Looks Like: Lake Mead Hits Historic Low

Can This ‘Airbnb for Water’ Help Drought-Stricken Farmers?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less