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Researchers demonstrate portable, solar-powered water desalination system

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About one in eight humans do not have access to clean drinking water, according to the World Health Organization. That’s approximately 884 million people.

The repercussion of this reality are a daily reality in developing nations: an estimated 1.4 million children perish each year due to diarrhea brought on by waterborne bacteria. In spite of breathtaking advances in human technology, over 97 percent of the world’s water is still undrinkable.

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This full-scale rendering may represent the future of clean water for those who have none.

And while salty or impure water can be cleaned through existing water desalination technologies, the facilities needed are massive and consume vast amounts of energy. It’s costly, too: purifying sea water can cost “over $1,000 per acre-foot,” according to the US Geological Survey. Even worse, of the roughly 12,500 desalination plants operating as of 2002, their combined total output was equal to less than 1 percent of humanity’s daily water consumption.

All of these factors combine to effectively place clean water out of reach for most of the world’s poor.

Enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Field and Space Robotics Laboratory, which has developed and successfully tested a portable, solar-powered water desalination system that has the potential to save millions of lives the world over.

Under the guidance of Profs. Steven Dubowsky and Richard Wiesman, the group created a small, reverse-osmosis system that’s capable of producing up to 80 gallons of clean water per day. A scaled-up version of the system could produce up to 1,000 gallons per day, according to David Gabriel, writing for the Environmental News Network.

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One of the military’s C-130 cargo planes could theoretically carry up to 24 of these systems, Gabriel noted. With 24,000 gallons of clean water per day, that’s enough to sustain a population of approximately 10,000.

“The system is designed to be cost effective,” he explained. “It is made from standard parts such as PVC pipe and basic electronic components. It can be assembled and operated by local people who do not need advanced technical training. The units can also operate efficiently in a wide range of weather conditions. They have built in computers with sensors that can change certain variables if it gets cloudy. For example, the computer can adjust power going to the pump or the position of the valves to ensure the system will always produce water.”

This video of the portable water desalination prototype in action was released by the MIT News Office on Oct. 14, 2010.

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(Courtesy photo: MIT.)


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Moon may be richer in water than thought — and it could help propel humans farther from earth

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There may be far more water on the Moon than previously thought, according to two studies published Monday raising the tantalising prospect that astronauts on future space missions could find refreshment -- and maybe even fuel -- on the lunar surface.

The Moon was believed to be bone dry until around a decade ago when a series of findings suggested that our nearest celestial neighbour has traces of water trapped in the surface.

Two new studies published in Nature Astronomy on Monday suggest there could be much more water than previously thought, including ice stored in permanently shadowed "cold traps" at lunar polar regions.

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Asymptomatic coronaagvirus sufferers lose antibodies sooner: study

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Asymptomatic coronavirus sufferers appear to lose detectable antibodies sooner than people who have exhibited Covid-19 symptoms, according to one of the biggest studies of its kind in Britain published on Tuesday.

The findings by Imperial College London and market research firm Ipsos Mori also suggest the loss of antibodies was slower in 18–24 year-olds compared to those aged 75 and over.

Overall, samples from hundreds of thousands of people across England between mid-June and late September showed the prevalence of virus antibodies fell by more than a quarter.

The research, commissioned by the British government and published Tuesday by Imperial, indicates people's immune response to Covid-19 reduces over time following infection.

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2020 Election

Early voting to be hit by heavy rain and flooding as Hurricane Zeta barrels towards the Gulf Coast

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Hurricane Zeta is expected to make landfall near Louisiana's border with Mississippi on Wednesday evening as campaigns work to get supporters to the polls and convince any undecided voters to back their candidate.

"Hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge are possible along portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, and Storm Surge and Hurricane Watches are in effect," the National Hurricane Center warned.

"Between Tuesday night and Thursday, heavy rainfall is expected from portions of the central Gulf Coast into the southern Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic states near and in advance of Zeta. This rainfall will lead to flash, urban, small stream, and minor river flooding," the center explained.

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