As California suffers through another crippling drought people in the U.S. are again talking about desalinating water. Some of the folks over at MIT have just won an award for a desalinization process that uses a photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis reversal (EDR) system to remove salt from water. The system pulls salt from water with electricity produced by the solar panels and uses ultraviolet rays to sterilize the water.
The $140,000 Desal Prize was awarded by The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bureau of Reclamation, in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. The prize was for “Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development.” The prize also makes the technology eligible to receive grants of up to $400,000 to implement pilot projects at small-holder rural farmers in a USAID mission region, USAID said.
The challenge was conducted at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in New Mexico. The teams had to run their systems for 24 hours at a time and remove salt from 2,100 gallons of water each day.
As human population continues to grow and climate change accelerates there is concern that fewer people will have access to fresh water, and irrigation could be reduced. It’s already a concern in parts of the world like India, where most agricultural water is brackish—not salt water, but too salty for human consumption.
"By 2050, global water demand is expected to increase by 55 percent, and 70 percent of global water use occurs in food production,” said Christian Holmes, USAID Global Water Coordinator. “The Desal Prize was developed to supply catalytic funding to capture and support the innovative ideas and new technologies that could have a significant impact.”
MIT’s Tata Center team led by Fellow Natasha Wright and MIT Assistant Professor Amos Winter won the award. The school worked with Jain Irrigation Systems to design the photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis reversal (EDR) system. It uses much less energy and uses less water than traditional reverse osmosis desalination processes. In the reverse osmosis process 40 percent of water can be lost. The MIT team only loses about 5 percent of the water in the process.Tweet