Why is it important: Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a portable desalination device capable of producing drinking water that surpasses World Health Organization quality standards at the push of a button. The suitcase-sized device weighs less than 22 pounds and can be powered by a portable solar panel.

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Instead of relying on a series of filters to disinfect water, the machine relies on a technique called ion concentration polarization (ICP) which uses electricity to filter salt molecules, viruses and bacteria.

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Another method, called electrodialysis, helps eliminate any remaining salt that may have slipped through the ICP stage.

It works with both dissolved and suspended solids, and without the need for filter replacement, long-term maintenance requirements are greatly reduced.

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The prototype is designed to produce about 10 ounces of drinking water per hour. During real tests on Boston’s Carson Beach, the device was able to fill a plastic cup with drinking water in about half an hour.

“Right now we are advancing our research to increase this productivity,” said Jonghyo Yoon, first author research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Yoon and senior author Jongkyun Han also want to make the device more user-friendly and more efficient. The current iteration requires about 20 watts of power to produce 33.8 fl oz of potable water.

It is hoped that one day the device can be deployed in areas with limited resources, after natural disasters or used for military purposes.

Image credit engin akyurt