The prototype "water chip"
When the electrical current is applied, salt tagged with a fluorescent tracer flows up one branch in the channel (left) – when the current is shut off, the salt flows down both branches
Although various alternative technologies are being developed, the large-scale desalination of seawater typically involves forcing it through a membrane that allows the water to pass through, but that traps the salt. These membranes can be costly, they can get fouled, and powerful pumps are required to push the water through. Now, however, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin and Germany’s University of Marburg are taking another approach. They’ve developed a chip that separates salt from water.
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