India’s sprawling 7,500 km coastline may have a solution to the country’s crippling water crisis, but harnessing the abundant seawater hasn’t been easy. Desalination technologies have made incremental improvements, but the projects are stuck because of high cost and corporate bickering. At such a time, any technical breakthrough is like a beacon of hope. One such breakthrough was reported recently when a group of chemists in Austin, Texas, and Germany, working with startup Okeanos Technologies, showed that by creating a small electrical field they can remove salt from seawater. They applied a small voltage of 3V to a plastic chip filled with seawater. The change in the electric field was sufficient to redirect salts to settle into one part, allowing the desalinated water to pass through.
If successfully scaled, it can beat two hindrances to desalination: High cost and easily contaminated membranes. And add a bonus: Offer small, decentralised systems, like vending machines.
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(This story appears in the 09 August, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)