MIT develops new technology that shocks the salt out of water

Iceberg deep blue


The bright minds at MIT have developed a way to separate salt from water that is easy, cheap, and effective. Using an electrical current, the team discovered how to quite literally shock the salt out of water, a technique designed to aid disaster-stricken areas needing fresh drinking water. This process is said to be affordable and avoids some of the snags associated with other desalination methods, such as filters getting clogged and boiling water requiring too much energy.

Martin Bazant, engineering and mathematics professor at MIT, and his team are happy to introduce “a fundamentally new and different separation system” that is comparable to conventional methods. The technique, called shock electrodialysis, does not rely on barriers to strain sodium particles from water. Instead, it uses a porous material – called a frit, made of small glass particles – with electrodes attached to the sides to apply an electrical current to the flow of water inside. Salt enriched and depleted water begin to separate. When the current is increased to a certain point, a shockwave creates a stark divide between the flows, which can be separated into different channels. The fresh water can then be collected for use.

Related: The Biomimicry Manual: How does nature make saltwater drinkable?

The practicality of the system allows it to satisfy different needs on a variety of scales. For instance, the electric current is capable of killing some bacteria, so the system could be used to decontaminate water from areas affected by fracking. The developers also hope to revolutionize desalination systems for emergency uses in disaster zones. It turns out that electricity and water may not be only deadly foes; rather they can be combined as a lifeline for those in need.

Via Fast Company