MIT's Breakthrough: Ocean Water Transformed Into Affordable Freshwater
October 8, 2023
Engineers from MIT and China are collaborating on a groundbreaking project aimed at converting seawater into potable water using an innovative passive device inspired by oceanic processes and fueled by solar energy.
In a recent publication in the journal Joule, the research team unveiled plans for an inventive solar desalination system. This system takes in seawater and harnesses the natural energy of sunlight to initiate the purification process.
The device's unique design facilitates the circulation of water in swirling patterns reminiscent of the large-scale "thermohaline" circulation found in the ocean. This circulation, combined with the sun's radiant heat, causes water to evaporate, leaving the salt behind. The resultant water vapor is then condensed and collected as pure, safe drinking water. Meanwhile, the leftover salt is continually flushed out of the system rather than accumulating and causing blockages.
The engineers project that when this system is upscaled to the size of a compact suitcase, it could generate approximately 4 to 6 liters of drinking water every hour and remain operational for several years before requiring maintenance or replacement components. At this scale and efficiency, the system could provide drinking water at a cost lower than that of tap water.
Lenan Zhang, a research scientist at MIT's Device Research Laboratory, expressed their excitement by stating, "For the first time, we have the potential for water, produced solely by sunlight, to be more affordable than conventional tap water."
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