Abundant fresh water for the future

water-chipBy Jeffrey the Barak

On and below the surface of our planet is a finite quantity of water.

Some of it is drinkable, and some of it is not, either because it is polluted, or because it is salty. Most water is in the oceans and it is salty water.

The reason it is salty is because it contains dissolved minerals. Rain falls on rock and minerals are washed down rivers into the sea, and then water evaporates again to form more rain, but the sea just gets saltier. Over billions of years, the ocean has developed into the salty brine that we see today, and we cannot drink it.

With population increasing, and traditional water sources disappearing due to melting ice and polluted aquifers, it is clear that in the near future, many people in the world will be killed, by thirst.

So the obvious solution is to remove salt from seawater and make it drinkable. Previously, desalination plants have needed to consume huge amounts of energy, making the production of drinking water from seawater, inefficient, expensive and polluting in itself.

But there is hope in the form of a new technology called Massively Paralleled Desalination. One company, Okeanos Technologies has invented the Okeanos WaterChip™, a solid-state, Massively Paralleled Desalination (MPD) platform.

This chip desalinates water in tiny quantities, millionths of a liter at a time, in a very efficient way that consumes hardly any energy. Using the power of the electron, small installations of the system can produce fresh water out of seawater, without filtration, chemicals, treatment ponds etc.

In theory, individual homes, larger buildings and entire municipalities could utilize these systems to generate enough fresh water for everyone in the world.

So while we may recently have been pondering a future of water wars, death en-masse, and widespread famine in our increasingly warm, dry and dirty world, there is at last hope for a different future altogether.

Jeffrey the Barak is sometimes thirsty and writes from inside a large potato.

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