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Indian American High School Student Developed Low-Cost Seawater Desalination Method To Solve Global Water Crisis

First Posted: Feb 08, 2017 03:10 AM EST
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Scientists across the world have been trying to find a cost effective method for seawater desalination over the past many years. Experts say that the global scarcity of clean drinking water can be solved if people find a way to convert the salt water of the oceans into drinking water. They have been trying to separate the salt-bound water molecules with the help of electrolysis and others.

What most experts ignored was the fact that, in seawater, only 10 percent of the total number of water molecules are bound to salt, while the rest that is 90 percent water molecules remain in free state. That 90 percent is fit for drinking if separated from the 10 percent salt-bound water molecules. An Indian American high school student from Portland, Oregon, figured that out.

The Tecake reported that Chaitanya Karamchedu, a Jesuit High School senior year student, devised a simple method to obtain pure water, with the help of superabsorbent hydrophilic polymers. Chaitanya Karamchedu employed the saponified starch-grafted-polyacrylamide to create a hydrogel, which was able to bind to the salt-bound water molecules. He later separated the freshwater portion from the hydrogel-bound brine.

The method requires no external energy and produces fresh water, which when tested passed the WHO standards for drinking water. Mass and conductivity analyses revealed that the purified water obtained had total dissolved solids concentration of 513 mg/L, which is below the WHO standard values of <600 mg/L. The sodium concentration was found to be 25.8 mg/L, which is very low, when compared to the 10,500 mg/L concentration of seawater. Similarly, the chloride concentration was also reduced from 19,000 mg/L of seawater to 36 mg/L.

Dr. Lara Shamieh, Jesuit High School Biology Teacher, said, "Chaitanya thought about it from a completely different angle. What this is compared to current techniques, is that it's cheap and accessible to everyone, everyone can use it."

Micro Finance Monitor reported that Chaitanya Karamchedu is a brilliant scientist in the making. Apart from this incredible achievement, he was a winner at Intel's International Science Fair and won $10,000 from the U.S. Agency for International Global Development. Even MIT has recognized his talents, and MIT's TechCon Conference has pledged funds for Chaitanya Karamchedu's future research projects.

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