Nearly 97% of the water on Earth is salty. The typical process of salt removal is the boiling of water and the capture of steam. Desalination is expensive and requires a lot of energy. At present, there are more than 18,000 desalination plants in 150 countries.
New research funded by the federal government reveals a method of purifying water that uses solar energy. The research, titled “The Distillation of the Nanophotonic Activated Solar Membrane for Water Purification” was published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Direct solar desalination could be a big change for some of the estimated 1 billion people who do not have access to clean water,” said Qilin Li, co-author of the study. “This technology is able to provide enough potable water for family use, and it can be scaled to provide water for larger communities. “
The device works in correlation with another technology developed at Rice University, known as membrane distillation. This type of distillation works by using hot salt water sent on one side of a porous surface and purified water on the other side.
“We report a direct solar method for desalination that uses nanoparticle-assisted solar vaporization in a membrane distillation,” the article explains. Artificial nanoparticles capture solar energy and change it into heat to allow distillation.
Scientists have successfully transformed salt water into drinking water through solar energy
The researchers used a very thin membrane heated by solar energy. They were able to produce 6 liters of water per hour, per square meter of membrane. The perspective is to make these membrane panels available in different sizes according to the daily needs of water production.
“Depending on the rate of water production you need, you can calculate the area of the membrane you need,” said Li. “For example, if you need 20 liters per hour and the panels produce 6 liters per hour per square meter, you order a little over 3 square meters of panels. “
Different types of renewable energy have great potential to reduce the use of carbon, nuclear energy and emissions globally. As global warming continues to threaten our health and resources, new technologies such as solar water purification could save lives.