by Maithili Joshi
A major problem across the world in developing and underdeveloped nations is the lack of access to clean drinking water. This has detrimental effects on general health, and also the ability to keep these rural communities going. This article was particularly interesting to me because issues of water in countries like India are so important for the health of people, and the health of the environment. Additionally, the use of solar power to reduce environmental effects was of particular interest to me because of its innovative use for other pressing environmental issues.
An article written in the Boston Globe describes two MIT students who are developing a unique system using solar power that will help farmers purify brackish water through a new and inexpensive technique, electrodialysis, that works by passing a stream of brackish water between two electrodes with opposite charges. The electrodes pull the dissolved salt ions out of the water, leaving freshwater at the center of the flow. Then, a series of membranes separates the freshwater stream from the salty one. This process is much more efficient than processes like reverse osmosis, with only about 5% of the water discarded. Additionally, not much energy, all of which can be from solar panels, is required for this process, making it environmentally sustainable. This is particularly useful in countries that don’t have constant access to grid power sources.
This process is expected to double access to safe drinking water availability. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see how effective this project is, and if the technology expands to other nations that have the same issues.