MIT’s New Portable Desalination Unit


“playing with water 7” by wester is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

By: Lena Tosounidis, Journalist

Water is essential for life, but safe drinking water isn’t always available. Researchers at MIT have developed a portable desalination unit that can transform salty seawater into fresh, clean water with the press of a button. It is solar-powered and requires less energy to operate than a cell phone. The device is self-cleaning, and it doesn’t use filters either, so there’s no worry about replacing them.

Most portable water purifiers or desalination units push water through filters using high-pressure pumps, but MIT’s device uses electrical power. Specifically, the techniques of ion concentration polarization(ICP) and electrodialysis. The process of ICP forms a boundary layer across a membrane by polarizing the ion concentration in water. This boundary on the membrane depletes the salt concentration in the water flowing across it. Electrodialysis uses electrodes to pull salt through an ion-exchange membrane, separating the particles from the water.

This device is simple, and anyone can use it. To begin the desalination process, the user can press a button or use the smartphone app. A notification lets the user know that their water is ready. The researchers behind the device created an app to wireless control the unit and show data on power consumption and water salinity.

According to MIT’s team, the unit can help areas affected by natural disasters, remote or resource-limited communities, and deployed soldiers. They are also working to improve the device’s energy efficiency, lower the production cost, increase production, and make it even more user-friendly. Although there is room for improvement, MIT has developed an effective desalination unit that gets the job done.






Solar-Powered System From MIT Offers a Route to Inexpensive Desalination

MIT researchers build portable desalination unit that generates clean water at the push of a button