Sunny Whang Walnut HS 11th Grade
Researchers from Yale and Rice University are developing a process called nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation or NEMSD that could potentially be used to provide fresh water in less developed areas such as Africa and treat water produced by fracking and shale oil and gas extraction operations.
The goal of this project is to provide clean water to millions of people, while making energy more sustainable and cost effective. NEMSD works by incorporating a porous membrane with carbon nanoparticles and using sunlight energy to heat water on one side of the membrane. This process helps filter out salt and contaminant particles while allowing water vapor to pass through.
Previous methods of desalination include reverse osmosis, which is energy efficient but doesn’t work with highly condensed salt water, and a process where water is evaporated and condensed, which requires high amounts of heat and energy. However, NEMSD minimizes both the energy needed while increasing productivity because the heat sources are the membrane itself and the sun. This process is important because only 1 percent of our world is accessible freshwater while 97.5 percent is seawater.
In 2017, the World Health Organization warned the public that nearly two billion people around the world are drinking and using contaminated water, and every year, hundreds of thousands of people are dying because of this contaminated water. While some countries were able to raise their budgets for water sanitation, over 70 percent are still having trouble meeting the nationally-set targets for increasing access to safe water.
This could help the people in places like Africa where the need for freshwater is unmet and people have trouble affording fresh water. NEMSD is cheap, minimizes energy use, and can be used anywhere because it is dependent on sunlight.
<Sunny Whang Walnut HS 11th Grade