Battery charging tech turns seawater into fresh water

Researchers with the University of Illinois' Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering have revealed that battery charging technology could end up being a viable desalination method, turning seawater into fresh water. This process works by putting seawater in a modified battery and then charging the battery with electricity, causing the salt ions to be pulled from the water.

Desalination, of course, aims to make the oceans' waters drinkable and useable for agriculture, but desalination technologies are notably expensive, cumbersome, and not terribly efficient. Many more efficient and less expensive desalination technologies are being developed, of which this is the latest. The researchers say they got their inspiration from sodium ion batteries, which per the name use salt water.

The researchers made sure the salt couldn't mix back into the fresh water in such batteries by adding a separator that ions are able to pass through. With it, one side of the water becomes desalinated, and by using larger batteries, one could more efficiently produce fresh water than using current reverse osmosis technologies.

Said one of the researchers:

We are developing a device that will use the materials in batteries to take salt out of water with the smallest amount of energy that we can. One thing I'm excited about is that by publishing this paper, we're introducing a new type of device to the battery community and to the desalination community.

SOURCE: University of Illinois