Researchers at the University of Bath Developed a Solar Desalination System

Researchers have designed a system that can desalinate ocean water. The system uses Ionics to separate salt from water and is powered by solar. Desalination on large scales typically uses a large amount of energy, costs vasts amounts of money, and has unintended environmental impacts. A small-scale system, used strategically, could avoid these negative aspects.

“the prototype desalination unit is a 3D-printed system with two internal chambers designed to extract and/or accumulate salt. When power is applied, salt cations (positively charged ions) and salt anions (negatively charged ions) flow between chambers through arrays of micro-holes in a thin synthetic membrane. The flow can only happen in one direction thanks to a mechanism that has parallels in mobile-phone technology. As a result of this one-way flow, salt is pumped out of seawater. This contrasts with the classical desalination process, where water rather than salt is pumped through a membrane.” – Bath University

Eventually, mobile units could be deployed in remote areas lacking clean water as well as disaster areas where water resources have been affected or in short supply. Currently the system can remove 50% of salt from the water. In order to have safe drinking water, about 90% of salt needs to be removed. The researchers think with collaboration and better materials, this could be achieved. The researchers expect the technology could be rolled out in the next 5 years.