A group of engineers at MIT has devised a new system that could provide a cost efficient source of clean drinking water for parched cities across the world, which, reduce the operating costs of power plants, simultaneously. Nearly, 39% of all the fresh water extracted from lakes, reservoirs, and rivers in the U.S. is kept aside for the cooling needs of electric power plants, which utilize nuclear power or fossil fuels, and much of that finishes up evaporating up in clouds. However, this novel system can potentially save a significant fraction of that lost water, and can even become a substantial source of clean and safe drinking water in coastal areas, where seawater is utilized to cool down the local power plants.
The idea behind this new concept is actually very simple. With this, the air, which is rich in fog, is annihilated with a beam of electrically charged particles, called ions, electrically charging water droplets, and hence is drawn toward a wire mesh, similar to a window screen, positioned in their path. The water droplets then get collected on that mesh and drained down into a collecting utensil. This collected water can be reutilized in the power plant or can be sent to the water supply system of a city. The system is the basis of Infinite Cooling, a startup company, which won the US$100K Entrepreneurship Competition of MIT, the last month. The working and efficiency of this system is explained in a paper published in the journal Science Advances, which is co-authored by Kripa Varanasi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and Maher Damak, Ph.D. Varanasi and Damak are among the co-founders of Infinite Cooling.