Suitcase-sized device turns seawater into drinking water at the push of a button

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,049   +152
Staff member
Why it matters: Researchers from MIT have developed a portable desalination device capable of generating drinking water at the push of a button that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. The suitcase-sized device weighs less than 22 pounds and can be powered by a portable solar panel.

Rather than relying on a series of filters to decontaminate water, the machine leans on a technique called ion concentration polarization (ICP) that uses electricity to filter out salt molecules, viruses and bacteria.

Another technique called electrodialysis helps to eliminate any remaining salt that may have slipped by the ICP stage.

It works on both dissolved and suspended solids and with no filters to replace, long-term maintenance requirements are greatly reduced.

The prototype is rated to produce about 10 ounces of drinking water per hour. In real-world testing at Boston's Carson Beach, the device was able to fill a plastic cup with drinkable water in about half an hour.

"Right now, we are pushing our research to scale up that production rate," said Junghyo Yoon, first author on a research paper published in Environmental Science and Technology. Yoon and senior author Jongyoon Han also want to make the device more user-friendly and improve its efficiency. The current iteration requires around 20 watts of power to produce 33.8 fluid ounces of drinking water.

The hope is that one day, the device can be deployed in resource-limited areas, after natural disasters or used by the military.

Image credit engin akyurt

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FaTaL

Posts: 74   +115
If you're dying of thirst you might get use outta filtering your own piss.
10 oz in a hour, thats little less than ur avg bottled water
 

bviktor

Posts: 789   +1,202
How about minerals and salts though. Pure H2O isn't very good for you, especially not in huge amounts.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 988   +739
I've always been very interested about this - as a simple device could save so many lives .
I do believe there are some million dollar rewards for someone to a make a simple device for under X dollars.
Always thought a solar condensation device - wouldn't be too hard to make - use sea water to cool collecting area - ie solar lens evaporation - high surface cooling area - with the magic sauce material - collection device . Wash away accumulation of salt with sea water start again - kind of a James webb fold out device
 

Thanthan

Posts: 69   +137
The unit of energy is wrong in the article, W are a unit of power, not energy, so you need 20W over a unit of time to produce the amount of liquid specified in the article, and the resultant value should be presented in Wh, J, or similar, otherwise the statement about energy use makes no sense.
 

Thanthan

Posts: 69   +137
Great. Leave the great lakes alone
This technology most likely will not help with that kind of issue, since the area is far from the ocean. You would run into large logistics costs attempting to move large amounts of water from the east coast to more central territories. Issues like that need to be solved politically rather than scientifically, since... All the science to make sure our water supply is sustainable exists, it's just up to whether lawmakers want to make sure that the water supply IS sustainable.
 

WhileTrueBreak

Posts: 163   +186
Do you have ANY IDEA how big the oceans on this planet are? 2/3 of the surface of this planet is covered with salt water; remember?
Yep, over 70% of the surface of the earth is ocean.

And 96.5% of the earth's water, by volume, is in oceans and seas. Fresh water surface sources like rivers and lakes, which we get most of our drinking water from, only amount to about 1/150th of one percent of earth's water.

 

scavengerspc

Posts: 2,365   +2,509
TechSpot Elite
I hope this can be expanded to a much larger scale for entire populations some day soon. But as for helping through the Zombie Apocalypse, a quick fire, a pot and a collector will always be the way to go.
 

christiangeli

Posts: 63   +42
Or since ocean and sea levels have been on a rise over the last 100 years (due to humanity), it'll help to 'normalize' them again?

(Being facetious before anyone wants to jump on this, though do feel the product itself is a good idea/invention.)
I agree. Humanity will survive current earth glaciation period by using pollution and greenhouse effect gas lol
 

RudyBob

Posts: 511   +465
This technology most likely will not help with that kind of issue, since the area is far from the ocean. You would run into large logistics costs attempting to move large amounts of water from the east coast to more central territories. Issues like that need to be solved politically rather than scientifically, since... All the science to make sure our water supply is sustainable exists, it's just up to whether lawmakers want to make sure that the water supply IS sustainable.
NO WAY Lawmakers can do anything about water sustainability. None. What they can do is make it way worse
 

Thanthan

Posts: 69   +137
NO WAY Lawmakers can do anything about water sustainability. None. What they can do is make it way worse
I don’t know a lot about the situation in the US although it does seem to me that lawmakers there are more beholden to the interests of polluters than the ones polluted, but in the rest of the world there are many countries where government policy is pushing issues like water sustainability in the right direction.