Bright minds win $140K for life-changing water invention

29 June 2015

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been awarded $140,000 for inventing a technology that uses the sun to power a desalination system that could water a village of 2,000 – 5,000 people. Why is this significant, you may ask?

As the world population continues to grow, so too does the demand for food and water. It’s estimated that by 2050 the global water demand will have increased by 55% – that’s a lot of fresh water!

While many countries have plenty of groundwater to tap into, much of it is salty and requires desalination. In developing countries especially, the electricity and facilities needed to do this are not available.

That’s why the US Agency for International Development (USAID) established a competition that challenged scientists to invent cost-effective, energy-efficient and enviro-friendly desalination technologies to supply water for drinking and irrigation to developing countries.

Entries were rigorously tested and the MIT team took home the grand prize for their innovative creation, which uses a set of solar panels to generate energy that can then be stored in batteries or fed into the desalination system. To remove salt from groundwater, a sustainable process known as electrodialysis is used.

The researchers also used UV light to help destroy bacteria and viruses and make the water drinkable.

Careful analysis revealed that MIT’s winning invention could recover around 90 per cent of the water and create a system that could supply the needs of a typical village in India of up to 5,000 people.

With inventions like this, collaboration of bright minds and a bit of sun, it looks like we’re on the right track to meet growing global water demand!


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