MIT engineers have created a portable device that can split seawater into drinking water

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A team of MIT researchers has created a device that turns brackish water into clean water at the touch of a button – and can be especially useful for people living in coastal areas like California who are struggling to meet. handling droughts caused by climate change.

The new desalination device (a term used to describe a machine capable of removing salt from seawater) is the size of a suitcase, weighs less than 10 kg and uses less energy than mobile phones with a charger, according to an article published in April. 14 in the magazine Environmental science and technology. At the touch of a button, drinking water that exceeds the World Health Organization’s water quality standards can be automatically generated.

“Even a kindergarten student can carry and use a desalination device,” said Junghyo Yoon, a researcher at MIT’s Electronics Research Laboratory and co-author of the paper. with The Daily Beast. “[La facilité d’utilisation] is one of the most important drivers for creating devices. “

This unit does not rely on any filters like traditional desalination machines. Instead, it breaks up water with an electric current to remove mineral-like salt particles from the water. According to Yoon, due to its portability and lack of filters to replace, it has a wide range of applications, including reaching out to coastal communities, climate disaster refugees or even forerunners. apocalypse, according to Yoon.

“My team and I have been working on desalination technology for more than ten years now,” said Jongyoon Han, professor of electrical engineering, computer science and bioengineering at MIT and lead author of the paper. with The Daily Beast. “This particular technology has undergone many different iterations and we have finally reached an important milestone in a proven system.”

Yoon and Hans’ new equipment solves some of the common problems found in most commercial desalination machines. First, it uses a lot of power to push water through the pump through the filters, making it difficult to make a smaller, portable version of it. Instead, the MIT team’s unit is based on a process called ion concentration polarization (ICP), which uses electric fields sent through the membranes above and below the water channel. The field pushes charged particles and pollutants into a separate water channel and is removed. This makes it possible to produce clean and drinking water. “We use an electric field in the water stream, and the electricity helps remove particles like salt in the water,” Yoon explains. “This is the basic principle of the unit’s desalination process.”

Researchers now want to upgrade their device to improve its production speed and ease of use. The more water a unit can produce at a time, the more people have access to safe drinking water. To that end, Yoon plans to launch a startup in the coming years to create a viable commercial desalination unit using ICP technology supported by MIT.

However, he said he has broader, long-term goals for his desalination efforts. Specifically, he wanted to look more critically at reverse osmosis (RO), a desalination process in which brine is pushed through a membrane or filter, resulting in pure water. “It achieves quite good energy efficiency, but it has high maintenance needs and it only works on a large scale, like a large factory,” he said, adding that it is a process that does not work for humans. places in the world such as California, where “water needs fluctuate” and where there is an urgent need for clean drinking water.

The user-friendly device, which weighs less than 10 kg and does not require filters, can be powered by a small portable solar panel.

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“This flow does not work well with a rigid desalination model used by a reverse osmosis plant,” he said. “So I’m thinking about how we can introduce more flexible desalination processes like ICP. It is a very long-term direction that interests me.

He also explained that he wants to solve challenges beyond desalination, including the discovery and removal of pollutants in water such as heavy metals and disease-causing pathogens such as viruses and bacteria.

“Most of these contaminants are open fillers, so we have technically the ability to remove a wide range of contaminants such as lead and bacteria,” he says. “In the future, we will design our system to remove industrial pollutants. These prospects are exciting. MIT engineers have created a portable device, which can divide seawater into drinking water

This article is automatically translated from the original language into your language. Do not hesitate to let us know if it contains translation errors so that we can correct them as soon as possible.

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