A small solar powered water purifier developed by MIT is producing drinking water at a cost of just 8 Australian cents per 20 litres.
The system has been installed in a remote village situated on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and is delivering the water at a small fraction of the cost the villagers were paying to have bottled water trucked in.
The purifier consists of several solar panels, a tank to hold the treated water and a small shed containing the purification equipment and computers to run the system. Pumps push brackish well water through semiporous membranes; leaving salts and other heavy minerals behind.
Even on a cloudy day, the solar powered system can purify approximately 1,000 litres of drinking water – enough to supply all the residents of the village with basic drinking water needs.
The MIT team is training community members in maintaining the system; carrying out tasks including changing filters and replacing additives.
The potential for the system being used elsewhere is huge says Steven Dubowsky, a professor of mechanical engineering and of aeronautics and astronautics who leads the project. Professor Dubowsky estimates there may be 25 million indigenous people in Mexico alone who could benefit from a solar water purifier.
Scalable and consisting of components that are all commercially available and designed to be user-friendly; the purification system can be assembled by someone with auto-mechanic skills.
“This project approach is somewhat unique in work for small communities in the developing world,” Professor Dubowsky says. “It is based on bringing to people the best technology to meet their needs.”