MIT–JIS team wins Desal Prize for affordable desalination

USAID desal prize winners

An MIT–Jain Irrigation Systems (MIT–JIS) team has developed a ‘better’ desalination process which utilizes solar energy and electrodialysis.

The project recently won the Desal Prize instituted under the Securing Water for Food initiative of US Agency for International Development (USAID). The prize comes with a purse of $140,000.

Competitors who create affordable desalination solutions for developing countries are adjudged on cost effectiveness, environmental sustainability and energy efficiency of their projects.

The MIT–JIS project uses solar panels to first charge a bank of batteries.

The stored power is then used to power an electrodialysis system which removes dissolved salt particles that have a small electric charge.

The system also disinfects the water by passing UV light through it.

This makes the water not only suitable for irrigation but also for consumption.

The team has stated that their system has “low energy consumption, leading to lower system cost and capital expense, especially in off-grid areas”.

Although the concept is not totally new to science, there is a greater interest in solar desalination especially in places where water is becoming a more scarce resource, such as Chile and California.

Competitors for the Desal Prize tested their projects at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in New Mexico.

They operated their systems for 24 hours each on the target quantity of 2,100 gallons of water each day.

The MIT–JIS system will now be put to test in the harsher environment of the outdoors in a rural area where farmers will be using the system daily. The site would be in USAID’s area of activity.

The team believes their system will be able to provide adequate water to irrigate a small farm.

Ajith Kumar S