Suitcase-sized device turns seawater into drinking water at the push of a button

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Suitcase-sized device turns seawater into drinking water at the push of a button

Why it matters: Researchers from MIT have developed a portable desalination device capable of generating drinking water at the push of a button that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. The suitcase-sized device weighs less than 22 pounds and can be powered by a portable solar panel.

Rather than relying on a series of filters to decontaminate water, the machine leans on a technique called ion concentration polarization (ICP) that uses electricity to filter out salt molecules, viruses and bacteria.

Another technique called electrodialysis helps to eliminate any remaining salt that may have slipped by the ICP stage.

It works on both dissolved and suspended solids and with no filters to replace, long-term maintenance requirements are greatly reduced.

The prototype is rated to produce about 10 ounces of drinking water per hour. In real-world testing at Boston’s Carson Beach, the device was able to fill a plastic cup with drinkable water in about half an hour.

“Right now, we are pushing our research to scale up that production rate,” said Junghyo Yoon, first author on a research paper published in Environmental Science and Technology. Yoon and senior author Jongyoon Han also want to make the device more user-friendly and improve its efficiency. The current iteration requires around 20 watts of power to produce 33.8 fluid ounces of drinking water.

The hope is that one day, the device can be deployed in resource-limited areas, after natural disasters or used by the military.

Image credit engin akyurt

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