MIT team create a cheap device to desalinate brackish water from Indian acquifers

MIT team create a cheap device to desalinate brackish water from Indian acquifers

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Acquifers in North and Central have a strange issue.  They have brackish water which are salty.

In addition to problems with bacterial contamination, the groundwater in much of rural India is brackish, having a salt content lower than seawater but still high enough to cause problems.

MIT engineer Natasha Wright adjusts equipment on desalination system that runs on solar energy. (Courtesy of USAID / Washingtonpost)

MIT engineer Natasha Wright adjusts equipment on desalination system that runs on solar energy. (Courtesy of USAID / Washingtonpost)

A team from MIT’s Global Engineering and Research Laboratory was in India to help the villagers with their water issues.  The main challenge was to create a system that was small, cheap and also 100% solar-powered (because of power shortage in rural India).

What the team came up with was quite impressive.

…. the MIT researchers designed a system that removes salt through a process called electrodialysis, using a series of electrodes and membranes to remove the salt. They added solar panels and batteries to run the pumps and charge the electrodes. Then, in a final step, they installed ultraviolet light arrays to kill any microbes remaining in the water.

The finished prototype is small enough to fit in a tractor-trailer and includes photovoltaic cells to supply the electricity. The system, when fully operational, can supply the basic water needs of a village of between 2,000 and 5,000 people, MIT officials said. Although the prototype was more expensive, Wright said the team is hopes to lower the costs of a village-sized unit to about $11,000.

This prototype can be taken to another level and made into a cheap machine to desalinate even sea water, which has a higher level of salt.  What would have been good is if this was made into an “Open Source” product, so the local scientists could use the thinking behind it and create something better and cheaper still.  Well, patent or no patent, that will eventually happen anyway.  And, when it comes to technologies for poor, we should set into motion movements which will lead to better and cheaper processes.

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Featured Image source: NYTimes

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