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Researchers Find an Inexpensive Way to Turn Seawater into Drinking Water in Minutes

Researchers Find an Inexpensive Way to Turn Seawater into Drinking Water in Minutes

by Samburaj DasSeptember 16, 2015

Researchers at the Alexandria University in Cairo have put forth a cheap, cost-effective technology to desalinate seawater to turn it into drinking water – within minutes.

The published research paper titled “Desalination of Simulated Seawater by Purge-Air Pervaporation Using an Innovative Fabricated Membrane” can be found here.

The purification of water for consumption purposes has long been a cumbersome and expensive process. In what may prove to be a significant milestone in researching cheaper, efficient ways to desalinate sea water, researchers in Egypt may have found a solution, according to a report in Scidev.

The lack of access to clean drinking water results in over 840,000 deaths every year. A staggering 750 million people around the world do not have the fundamental human right and need to clean drinking water, according to estimates by

Strikingly, a (the) water crisis is the most substantial global risk based on impact to society (as an indicator of devastation), according to the World Economic Forum.

A Quick & Cheap Process of Turning Seawater into Drinking Water

The new technology is primarily based on membranes. Specifically, membranes containing cellulose acetate powder that, along with other components, soaks up salt particles when water passes through them, resulting in desalination.

“The membrane we fabricated can easily be made in any laboratory using cheap ingredients, which makes it an excellent option for developing countries,” explains Ahmed El-Shafei, an associate professor at Alexandria University and a contributing author to the study.Drinking Water

Here’s how it works:

  • Using ‘pervaporation’ – a technique wherein impure water is first treated and filtered through the membrane.
  • As a result, larger particles are removed before the remaining water is heated until it vaporizes.
  • The water-vapor is then condensed to get rid of small impurities, eventually leading to clean water.

“Using pervaporation eliminates the need for electricity that is used in classic desalination processes, thus cutting costs significantly,” contends El-Shafei.

The novel method can be used to desalinate and purify water contaminated with impurities such as sewage, salt and dirt.

Furthermore, the membrane along with the vaporization can be used in remote locations where electricity is hard to come by, making it an efficient method of desalination in developing and poorer countries with low resources.

“The technology implemented in the study is much better than reverse osmosis, the technology currently used in Egypt and most of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa,” says Helmy El-Zanfaly, a professor of water contamination at Egypt’s National Research Centre.

It can effectively desalinate water with high concentration of salt like that of the Red Sea, where desalination costs more and yields less.

While promising, the technology is yet to be adapted and put into action in the real-world. The researchers aim to set up a small desalination plant as a pilot project with the firm conviction that the technology can be adapted for wider commercial use.

Images from Shutterstock and Pixabay.

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