MIT Wins Prize for Process to Desalinate Seawater

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team has won the grand prize of $140,000 in an engineering competition to come up with technology to make salt water drinkable, according to an announcement from USAID.

A total of five teams competed for $200,000 in the Desal Prize competition, which sought the best way to take brackish water, or briny inland water, and make it consumable by humans and crops. The contest's purpose was to give a boost to the developing world—and maybe to drought-stricken California.

The teams competed April 9-11 in head-to-head demonstrations at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's brackish groundwater desalination research facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico. USAID's U.S. Global Development Lab provided most of the funding for the Desal Prize.

A team from the University of Texas-El Paso placed second, winning $60,000. The top three finishers will get a chance to receive $400,000 in USAID grants to pilot their technologies.

The MIT team, which includes participants from India's Jain Irrigation Systems, designed a photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis reversal system that desalinates water using electricity to pull charged particles out of the water. It also further disinfects water using ultraviolet rays.

How Does Desalination Work? 0:42

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-- Jeff Daniels