MIT develops solar-powered, portable desalination system

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18:57 October 27, 2010

MIT researchers have developed a portable, solar-powered water desalination system that co...

MIT researchers have developed a portable, solar-powered water desalination system that could provide water in disaster zones and remote regions around the globe (Image: Steven Dubowsky, Amy Bilton and Leah Kelley)

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Researchers from MIT’s Field and Space Robotics Laboratory (FSRL) have designed a portable, solar-powered desalination system that is cost-effective and easy to assemble to bring drinkable water in disaster zones and remote regions around the globe.

Relief efforts in the aftermath of large-scale natural disasters often call for water as one of the very first priorities: such was the case in the Haiti earthquake back in January. When coping with disasters of this scale the possibility to obtain drinkable water locally, such as by desalination of sea water, dramatically improves the effectiveness of the rescue efforts.

Desalination systems, however, are usually quite large and need a lot of energy to operate; these situations, instead, call for a quick, effective way to turn seawater into drinkable water in loco, with a small and portable system that doesn’t need external sources of electrical power to work.

The system developed by MIT researchers does exactly this, and its characteristics make it particularly apt to the task of assisting people in emergency situations. It’s designed so it can be cost-effectively assembled from standard parts and put into operation within hours even without the need of technicians. Its specifics mean the apparatus could also found use in remote areas where supplying energy and clean water can be logistically complex, such as desert locations or small villages in developing countries.

 

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