Recently published research, led by the Center for Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) at Rice University in Texas, outlines a new desalination technique that Jonathan O'Callaghan calls a "major breakthrough". Instead of utilizing "power-hungry desalination plants" to transform salt water into fresh water, this technique employs solar energy as its power sourcpane.
The process utilizes membrane distillation - a process in which "hot salt water flows along one side of a porous membrane, and cold freshwater flows along the other. The result is that water vapor is drawn from the hot to the cold side," IFLScience.com reported. While this process still requires quite a bit of heat, NEWT has developed a technology that uses engineered nanoparticles which convert sunlight into heat. They call this process "nanophotonics-enabled solar memrane distillaion technology - or NESMD for short.
"Direct solar desalination could be a game changer for some of the estimated 1 billion people who lack access to clean drinking water," Rice scientist, study author, and water treatment expert Qilin Li said in a statement. "This off-grid technology is capable of providing sufficient clean water for family use in a compact footprint, and it can be scaled up to provide water for larger communities."