Canadian Consulting Engineer

Radically new process for desalination developed

November 17, 2015

A research team at MIT has developed a system for desalinating water that is fundamentally different to other methods.

Reported by from an article by David L. Chandler in Environmental Science and Technology, the innovative process uses an electrically driven shock wave in flowing water.

The process avoids the problems with traditional desalination systems, such as those that use membranes, which can become clogged, or boiling, which uses lots of energy.

As Chandler describes it: “In the new process, called shock electrodialysis, water flows through a porous material —in this case, made of tiny glass particles, called a frit—with membranes or electrodes sandwiching the porous material on each side. When an electric current flows through the system, the salty water divides into regions where the salt concentration is either depleted or enriched. When that current is increased to a certain point, it generates a shockwave between these two zones, sharply dividing the streams and allowing the fresh and salty regions to be separated by a simple physical barrier at the center of the flow.”


The process uses a relatively cheap porous media, and it can be scaled up. It’s expected it could be used for fracking operations, or for desalinating groundwater or ocean water.

To read the article in, click here.



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