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Portland Teen Discovers New Cost-Efficient Way to Make Salt Water Drinkable

Feb 15, 2017 11:17 AM EST
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Teenager Discovers New, Cost-Efficient Way To Make Salt Water Drinkable
Researchers from MIT and UC Berkeley teamed up to create a device that can pull water from thin air.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Water is one of man's primary needs to survive. However, the abundance of ocean water in the world does not mean it's readily drinkable. A Portland-based teenager is about to change all of that as he may have cracked the code to turning salt water to drinking water.

A Fresh Set of Eyes Offers New Solution

Meet Chaitanya Karamchedu, a Jesuit High School senior, who is gaining attention across the country because of his classroom experiment. What began as a curious project has sparked a new look on the creation of fresh water.

For his experiment, Karamchedu worked on a highly absorbent polymer that can potentially lead to a cheaper way of converting seawater to drinking water. According to KPTV, Karamchedu pointed out that only 10 percent of the water in salt water is bonded to salt, so he thought of taking out the remaining 90 percent.

In a report from Oregon Live, he revealed that the best way to make drinkable water is to take water from salt, literally. His teacher, Lara Shamieh, said this is a novel way of looking at the problem. For years, scientists have always looked at traditional methods of converting fresh water, but Karamchedu's new approach on the problem is a game-changer.

"People were concentrated on that 10 percent of water that's bonded to the salt in sea and no one looked at the 90 percent that was free," Shamieh said.

The young scientist won a $10,000 award from the US Agency for International Global Development Development at Intel's International Science Fair and second place at MIT's TechCon Conference.

Read: WaterSeer: Turbine That Can Produce Water From Air is the Answer to Water Scarcity

Looming Problem on Water Scarcity

Metro emphasized that one in eight people do not have access to clean water, which is ironic as 70 percent of the Earth is composed of water. Currently, there are available processes in the market that converts salt water to drinking water. However, they are not easy on the pocket.

These methods are expensive because they require desalination, the process of removing salt particles from water to make it drinkable. Chai's idea of using a polymer will cut costs dramatically.

The process is not finished yet. If scientists are able to focus on the "free" 90 percent water molecules rather than the 10 percent of salt, then mass producing Karamchedu's method could create impact at a larger scale.

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