In January 2015, the World Economic Forum announced that the water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation). You may ask, why?
By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water stressed conditions. This scarcity of clean drinking water or even moderately safe utilizable water can be attributed to the fact that 96.5% of the water on earth is held by the oceans. That is again, saline. And methods of removing salinity from water, as scientists have discovered till date are expensive, time consuming, consumes a huge amount of electricity thus making its commercial application impossible.
Researchers from Alexandria University in Egypt have discovered a cost-effective desalination technology which can filter highly salty water in minutes. The process is called per-vaporation. It involves passing seawater through a membrane which separates the larger particles in it from the liquids. The residual liquid is then heated until it vaporizes and subsequently condensed to obtain clean water free of all impurities.
The membrane, primarily composed of cellulose acetate powder in combination with other compounds can be prepared in any laboratory at very low costs.
“The membrane we fabricated can easily be made in any laboratory using cheap ingredients, which makes it an excellent option for developing countries,” says Ahmed El-Shafei, an associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering in Alexandria University, and an author of the study. He further added, “Using pervaporation eliminates the need for electricity that is used in classic desalination processes, thus cutting costs significantly.”
Researchers claim that all that would be needed for people to carry out this process themselves are the membranes and fire to vaporize the water. If the membrane production process can be commercialized, this process could potentially turn the global water crisis around completely.