Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Two Innovative Clean Water Solutions out of MIT

For my LEARN4, I bring to you two very interesting and very different solutions for creating clean water, both of which come out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and both of which I found completely by accident.

The first is a tiny water desalination chip, It's about the size of a postage stamp, and uses a new approach to purifying water called ion concentration polarization. I'm not going to explain here how it works, for that you can read the article.

Each chip on it's own can only purify a few microliters an hour, but their hope is to put 1,600 of the chips together, which could desalinate 15 liters per hour and could be run simply by a battery or solar cell and the effect of gravity on the water poured in.

I think this has a huge potential to become a great source of water in more developed countries or in countries given aid, however I don't see much use of it in developing counties as I don't think it could be manufactured cheaply and locally.

The second innovation to come out of MIT recently is a project to use plants to purify polluted canal water in Italy. They plan to create a wetlands park that would employ plants used to remove the various pollutants from a terribly polluted section of Italy, all the while creating a beautiful public space that they think would increase the tourism of the Italian countryside. Details about how it works and such can be found in the article.

I'm a big fan of this idea as it's very natural, sustainable, and beautiful. I would love to see this happen in Italy, and then to see it implemented in various places all over the world. This has also given me the idea that perhaps a sort of grassroots program could be started where these sorts of plants are planted near rivers in local communities to help clean the water. This would be done through programs like Nick's Gratitude Gardens, my Farmpunk Kits, or Guerrilla Gardening.

As I will be at MIT tomorrow through Sunday, I hope to talk to the researchers for both these projects, find out more about their research, and let them know about EVOKE.

Views: 45

Comment by Samiran Roy on April 7, 2010 at 12:21pm
Thanks for sharing, have you heard of Lifestraw? It is an ingenious and extremely practical method to purify water....
Comment by Amos Meeks on April 7, 2010 at 3:21pm
Absolutely I've heard of lifestraw. It's a wonderful thing, but it does have a couple problems, namely that it can't be made locally where it's needed, and that it only lasts for a finite amount of time.

While the desalination chips also cannot be made locally where they are most needed, they serve a different purpose in making sea water drinkable, while the lifestraw makes dirty local freshwater drinkable.

Using plants for water purification also has an extremely different niche, as it's not a quick solution like the lifestraw, and it can't be implemented everywhere, but it is extremely natural, sustainable, beautiful, and long lasting.


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