HowStuffWorks “10 Innovations in Water Purification”

10 Innovations in Water Purification

If you are interested in the future of water purification system technology, this article should be of interest to you…

Water Purification System TechnologyFood and shelter are crucial for living, but nobody can survive for very long without water. That’s why, since the beginning of history, civilizations have lived near abundant sources of H20. But it’s not enough just to have plenty of it. The same water that gives life can also make people sick or even kill them, if it contains dangerous substances or disease-causing microbes. And since people use water for activities such as irrigating crops, washing and waste disposal, sources of water close to a human population can easily become contaminated [source: Hassan].

Water Purification is a Constant Requirement

As a result, humans have been trying to purify water for thousands of years. As far back as 1500 B.C., Egyptians used the chemical alum to filter suspended sediment out of their drinking water. But it wasn’t until the late 1800s and early 1900s that scientists figured out that microbes caused illnesses and that water could be treated with chlorine or ozone to eliminate them [source: Environmental Protection Agency].

While the water that comes out of taps in most countries now is clean and safe, about 11 percent of the world’s population — 783 million people — still doesn’t have access to potable water, according to a 2012 United Nations study. So scientists are developing new methods of obtaining water and purifying it. Here are 10 of the most promising technologies.

Using Oceans for Water Purification Systems?

If we could tap the vast oceans as a source of drinking water, everyone would have more than enough. But that means removing the salt, which is inefficient and costly using existing technology. That’s why a new [water purification] process, developed by New Jersey Institute of Technology chemical engineering professor Kamalesh Sirkar, has such dazzling promise. In Sirkar’s direct-contact membrane distillation (DCMD) system, heated seawater flows across a plastic membrane containing a series of hollow tubes filled with cold distilled water. The DCMD’s tubes have tiny pores, which are designed so that they can be penetrated by the water vapor which collects on them, but not by salt. The vapor diffuses through the pores and is drawn off, to be condensed again into liquid water.

Efficient Water Purification System

According to Sirkar, his [water purification] system is extremely efficient — it can produce 80 liters (21 gallons) of drinking water per 100 liters (26 gallons) of seawater, about twice what existing desalination technology can produce. One potential downside of DCMD is that it requires a steady, inexpensive source of heat in order to prevent the water temperature on either side of the membrane from equalizing. But there’s the possibility that DCMD systems could someday recycle waste heat from shore-based factories and offshore oil drilling operations, making it a win-win for everybody [source: Greenmeier]. […]

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