How does silver help turn seawater into drinking water?
It’s said that the next big war will not be over oil or gas – but over water.
Huge areas of the planet are becoming drier as climate change wreaks havoc on water tables and increasing populations demand more and more H2O.
The problem with water is that it is extremely difficult to “transport” over great distances without networks of pipes and sanitation systems. In temperate climates it is easier to rely on above ground irrigation systems – but in hot climates the water simply evaporates.
An entire two thirds of the planet is covered in water which is undrinkable in its natural state – the oceans and seas.
Desalination of water has, until now, been an expensive and large industrial operation.
MIT – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – has recently pioneered a passive solar-powered desalination system. Tests on an MIT building rooftop showed that a simple proof-of-concept desalination device could produce clean, drinkable water at a rate equivalent to more than 1.5 gallons per hour for each square meter of solar collecting area.
The system uses multiple layers of flat solar evaporators and condensers, lined up in a vertical array and topped with transparent aerogel insulation. MIT claims such systems could reach overall efficiency levels as high as 700 or 800 percent.
Of course, one of the major components of the system is the silver used in the construction of the solar panels – and the filtration system.
The researchers plan further experiments to continue to optimize the choice of materials and configurations to test the durability of the system under realistic conditions.
They also will work on translating the design of their lab-scale device into something that would be suitable for use by consumers. The hope is that it could ultimately play a role in alleviating water scarcity in parts of the developing world where reliable electricity is scarce but seawater and sunlight are abundant.
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