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Nano-Distilling Seawater

December 5, 2017

Turning saltwater to drinking water with sunlight.


The world needs more drinkable water. (Robert Villalta/Pexels)

The world needs more drinkable water. (Robert Villalta/Pexels)


Solar water purification. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our planet is covered mostly in water, yet over half the worlds population suffers from water shortages. Now, Rice University nanoscience researcher Alessandro Alabastri and his colleagues have a new way to convert saltwater to fresh water using solar energy and so-called nanoparticlestiny, sunlight-harvesting specks.


Water by itself doesnt absorb sunlight very efficiently. So thats where nanoparticles kick in because they are very efficient in absorbing sunlight.  


A thin layer of this nanomaterial absorbs solar energy and heats up saltwater along the face of a membrane. The water evaporates, leaving the salt behind, and passes through the membrane into a collector channel on the other side.  Alabastri says the technology can provide water for households living off the grid, or can be scaled up for industrial applications. Im Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon