TECH

'Desolenator' Can Turn Sunlight Into Drinking Water

02/12/2014 13:59 | Updated 02 December 2014

What if you could invent a way to generate clean water from sunlight - and then give it to a billion people?

Well, you'd probably launch some kind of crowd-funding page.

That's just what the minds behind the Desolenator - a new, low-cost and solar-powered water purification machine - have done.

Solar-powered water cleansing techniques themselves aren't new - 'solar stills' have been around for 200 years, and there are other water filtration, 'reverse osmosis' and large-scale systems around.

But Desolenator says its product is different in a few key ways. It's expensive as a one off - the machine costs around $650. But the team says it lasts for 20 years - meaning its cost per litre is exceptionally low, if it's treated well. Fortunately it's efficient, being able to produce 15 litres a day, and is easy to maintain with no moving parts, filters or consumables.

The team behind it has a working prototype, and has received the backing of Imperial College's Climate-KIC UK, who awarded it a place on their accelerator programme recently.

But now it wants to take the product to the next stage, where it can hone a market-ready machine, and start trials in different locations to find out how it functions in the harsh reality of life in the world's poorest places.

William Janssen, CEO, said in a press release:

"A massive 97% of the world’s water is salt water and our plan to tap into this valuable and available resource to disrupt the global water crisis in an unprecedented way…. Desolenator is different from existing desalination and home water technologies – it harnesses solar power in an elegant new way, maximising the amount of solar radiation that hits the technologies surface area through a combination of thermal, electrical and heat exchange, creating pure clean drinking water through the power of the sun."

It's a fascinating idea - though it's not alone in attempting to tackle the issue of water shortages through innovative new gadgets (many of which end up being too fragile, or expensive, for mass adoption).

Critics of other similar ideas have argued in the past that they perhaps miss the main issue - which is one of infrastructure, government funding and education rather than tech. But it obviously has potential.

Head over to the Indiegogo page if you're keen to help out.

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