Humans now have an easier and affordable way to turn salt seawater into the water which we can drink, all thanks to an Indian-American student. What begun as a science experiment by Chaitanya Karamchedu, a teenager from Portland, Oregon, is a new idea that is a major topic of discussion in the tech world. According to reports, Karamchedu wanted to address the issue of access to clean water in many parts of the world. He believes that the best access to water is sea since more than two third of the planet Earth is full of water, but the problem is that all of it is salt water which is undrinkable. Scientists, the world over have been trying to solve the problem and make an affordable technology to turn the sea water into drinkable water, so far been unsuccessful. Desalination, which is one of the methods has been unavailable at most of the places. This thought led Karamchedu to his high school science lab and figure out a way.
Karamchedu realised that the sea water is not saturated with salt and while working with an absorbent polymer, he discovered a cost-effective way to separate the salt. His approach was just the opposite of what the scientists have been boggling their minds with. While most of them worked for the 10 percent water molecule which was bonded with the salt, Chaitanya wanted to work with the 90 percent free water. This novel approach is a breakthrough in science and is sure to impact a huge population, especially those who do not have access to clean water. This is mainly because the technology is extremely cheap and accessible.
In order to push Chaitanya to pursue his research, he has been awarded $10,000 by the US Agency for International Global Development at Intel’s International Science Fair. He also won the second prize at MIT’s TechCon Conference where he was rewarded with more money. Karamchedu was also named in one of 300 Regeneron Science Talent Search Semifinalists, a very famous competition among high school students.
It remains to be seen how we can get an endless supply of clean water despite the rain, snow, pollution and salt. Desalination, which is the current method for separating salt from seawater, apart from costing lakhs of rupees per family for a year, is also a matter of debate among environmentalists because of its energy consumption. This new method by the Indian teen might cost only a fraction of it, both in terms of cost as well as energy consumption.