MIT team’s new device turns seawater into drinking water with the push of a button


MIT researchers have discovered a way to easily turn seawater into drinking water with the press of a button. The institute shared discovery news back in April. The system relies on a portable desalination unit that can turn impure water into potable water without filters or high-pressure pumps.

MIT scientists have created a device that turns seawater into drinking water

Transforming seawater into drinking water is not impossible. But this often requires heavy and massive desalination equipment. However, in April this year, researchers at MIT shared a suitcase-sized device that can desalinate water with the press of a single button.

Most portable desalination systems require the water to pass through filters. However, this new device uses electricity to remove particles from the water. This allows it to produce potable water without having to worry about long-term maintenance needs. This is especially important when portable units like this could provide drinking water to entire communities.

Being able to turn seawater into drinking water could change the lives of many communities, especially those on small islands. The portable unit would also be useful aboard sea freighters. It could even be used to help refugees fleeing natural disasters. Of course, this would also be useful for military operations where long-term water supplies are more difficult to acquire.

Ion concentration polarization

How the device turns seawater into drinking water. Source of images: MIT / YouTube

Instead of using filters to clean seawater and turn it into drinking water, the device uses ion concentration polarization (or ICP). ICP was started by Jongyoon Han and a team of researchers nearly a decade ago. It applies an electric field to the membranes above and below the water. This then repels the particles as it passes.

However, ICP does not always remove all salt particles floating in the water. To combat this, the researchers incorporated another process, electrodialysis, which they use to remove any remaining salt ions. Overall, the system works well in tandem, allowing them to turn seawater into drinking water.

Of course, building something in a lab is one thing. To really test the product, MIT says researchers took it to a beach and field-tested the device. He succeeded in transforming sea water into drinking water on the first pass. But, says Han, the success was only possible because of all the advances made in desalination technology along the way.

Of course, this is not the first impressive thing that MIT researchers have created. Some MIT researchers are also trying to build a time machine that can detect dark matter.


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