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A System That's Worth Its Salt

By MIT News

March 25, 2010

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in Korea have developed a new approach to water desalination that could lead to small, portable units powered by solar cells or batteries that produce enough fresh water to supply the needs of a family or small village. The approach separates salts and other microbes from water by electrostatically repelling them away from the ion-sensitive membrane in the system, which should eliminate the need for high pressure and the problems of fouling, according to the researchers.

Although each individual device can produce only a small amount of water, a large number of them working together could produce about 15 liters of water per house.

The researchers successfully tested a single unit, which was able to remove more than 99 percent of salt and other contaminants from water. The device was fabricated on a layer of silicon using methods developed for microfluidic devices.

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