Northeastern University

Page Content   Local Links   Utility Links   Footer Links


A solar-powered solution to the worldwide water crisis


North­eastern Uni­ver­sity student-​​researchers have cre­ated a solar-​​powered desali­na­tion system designed to address the world­wide water crisis by pro­ducing potable ocean water.

The inno­v­a­tive device, dubbed the “Pyramid Desali­nator,” was designed for a senior cap­stone project under the direc­tion of mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering pro­fessor Mohammad Taslim. The under­grad­uate team mem­bers included Stephen Bethel, Dou­glas Dell’Accio, Matt Haf­fen­r­effer, Zach Modest and Michael Wegman, who con­ceived of the idea after com­pleting a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram in fluid dynamics in Egypt.

More than 800 mil­lion people throughout the world lack access to clean water, 3.6 mil­lion of which die every year from water­borne ill­nesses. “If we can decrease that number by even a small per­centage,” Haffen­r­effer said, “then our system can make a global impact.”

The team’s desali­na­tion system con­sists of a one-​​square-​​meter alu­minum frame, a water tray and a water storage area located beneath the tray. A piece of plastic fash­ioned into the shape of a pyramid covers the entire contraption.

Here’s how it works: A user pours a small jug of ocean water into the tray. The sun heats the water through the plastic cov­ering, causing the water to evap­o­rate. Wind con­denses the water, which then drips into the storage area. The salt in the water is left behind on the tray.

The output goal is to pro­duce up to one gallon of potable water per day. Other desali­na­tion sys­tems on the market pro­duce a frac­tion of this quantity.

Team mem­bers, who have already shipped a pro­to­type to Cameroon, a country in west Cen­tral Africa, hope to create a dis­tri­b­u­tion part­ner­ship with Water​.org or the Amer­ican Red Cross.

They are seeking $10,000 in funding from Jola Ven­ture, a for-​​profit social enter­prise backed by IDEA: Northeastern’s Ven­ture Accel­er­ator, to redesign the con­trap­tion using more cost-​​effective mate­rials and create an auto­mated water feeding system.

Modest said he and his team­mates could make their desali­na­tion system for $20 with the proper mate­rials — and then sell it for con­sid­er­ably less. “Com­pared to buying bot­tled water in bulk, this would be well under one-​​tenth of the price,” he said.

Taslim praised the young entre­pre­neurs. “These guys put the knowl­edge they acquired in five years at North­eastern in class and on co-​​op to good use,” he said, noting weekly design cri­tiques in which the students rou­tinely returned with fresh ideas. “This was a huge oppor­tu­nity for them to go through the design process as they would in the real world.”

Local Links

Text Only Options

Top of page

Text Only Options

Open the original version of this page.

Usablenet Assistive is a UsableNet product. Usablenet Assistive Main Page.