This is something I’ve been wanting to write on for awhile, but knowing that it would be cool news no matter when I shared it, I let it sit in line for longer than I normally would.
MIT engineers from the Field and Space Robotics Laboratory have come up with the concept for a solar-powered, portable desalination plant and have built early versions of it. While this technology may never be practical as a very widespread solution to clean drinking water (or maybe it will …), it seems that it could be very helpful in certain situations, such as after big natural disasters or in remote locations with limited clean water resources.
When island nations experience disaster (think the Haitian earthquake), the victims are often faced with a cruel irony summed up (in a different context) by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “Water, water, everywhere,/Nor any drop to drink.” Sure, aid organizations and other countries can deliver bottled water to address the immediate need, but that’s not a sustainable long-term solution; people need regular access to clean drinking water as they’re rebuilding whatever infrastructure existed prior to the disaster.
The supply of energy and clean water to remote locations, such as desert facilities, farming operations, resorts, and small villages in the developing world can be logistically complex and expensive. This project explores the feasibility, design and control of small smart power units to provide clean water and energy to remote sites by using solar power and reverse osmosis modules….
More on the Details of this Portable Solar Desalination Plant
The working prototype MIT engineers have developed “is capable of producing 80 gallons of water a day in a variety of weather conditions,” but the engineers have much bigger long-term goals.
The intention it to create a system that can provide 1000 gallons of water a day and can be rapidly deployed for a total construction cost of about $8000.
And, yes, the designers are addressing the concern of inconsistent sunlight. Watch the video below of a demonstration project in Boston on a partly cloudy day.
Looks like a great potential solution to drinking water needs in a variety of places and situations, if it can be developed as intended.
Photo Credit: MIT
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