Water Desalination Process with Tiny Channels

‘Tiny Channels’ Can Desalinate Water With Very Little Cost, Less Frustrating Maintenance

More than one billion people around the world do not have access to safe non-salt water drinking sources. In some of those cases, that lack of fresh water sources has led to the construction of desalination plants.

Desalination plants exist in Saudi Arabia and the Caribbean Islands, but they are expensive and require the inclusion of filter technologies that are difficult to make and even harder to maintain.

Now a new product has the potential to remove salt from water using a system of “tiny channels” built into a chip. The new product pulls out salt with very little energy consumed and without the need for expensive high-tech filter technologies.

The technology if proven successful on a wide-scale could be a boon for people living in arid coastal regions, specifically in Africa and the Middle East.

The tiny channels process was developed by Richard M. Crooks at the University of Texas at Austin and Ulrich Tallarek at the University of Marburg, Germany.

To create the process researchers forced salt water down a channel that splits into two branches. Each of the channels are approximately 22 microns wide. The channels are both connected to an electrode that meets where the two channels connect. The electrodes are given three volts of electricity, and that voltage changes some of the chloride ions which have negative charges into neutral chlorine. The process has the effect of increasing electric field strength and making a gradient across the two channels. As the gradient is created, it forces ions into one channel as fresh water flows down the second channel.

Because the filter can’t become clogged, it becomes cheaper to maintain and use than traditional filter-based desalination systems. The system also uses far less energy than current desalination systems.

The tiny channels system is being developed by the start-up Okeanos Technologies.

Do you think cheaper and more effective desalination can help solve much of the world’s water problems?