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El MIT inventa un chip para desalinizar y potabilizar el agua

14 abril 2010 - 18:47 - Autor:

chipsalEn lo que puede ser uno de los avances más prometedores de la microelectrónica un equipo del MIT ha desarrollado un chip capaz de desalinizar y purificar el agua. El chip, del tamaño de un sello, utiliza campos magnéticos para separar los contaminantes nocivos del agua. Una vez se fabrique a gran escala, la nueva tecnología podría salvar millones de vidas en países en desarrollo, evitando la transmisión de enfermedades transmitidas por la ingestión de agua contaminada, según informa Discovery.

Las bandas negras que se aprecian en la imagen son en realidad microcanales. El agua contaminada fluye por un canal y rápidamente se encuentra con un fuerte campo magnético. El agua carece de cualquier carga magnética, de modo que todo residuo que tenga una carga positiva o negativa, incluyendo sal disuelta o bacterias, es reconducida por un canal, en tanto el agua pura fluye en otra dirección.

El purificador de agua ha sido descrito en el artículo “Nature Nanotechnology” por Jongyoon Han, uno de los integrantes del equipo. En palabras de Han, el chip “puede eliminar las bacterias y otras partículas del agua del mar y del agua salobre sin sufrir ningún atasco”. En las pruebas realizadas, el purificador fue capaz de eliminar el 99% de las sustancias contaminantes de una mezcla de agua del Atlántico, sangre, proteínas y pequeñas partículas de plástico.

Los chips fabricados hasta el momento tan sólo son capaces de purificar pequeñas cantidades de agua. En los próximos dos años los científicos del MIT planean escalar el dispositivo hasta que albergue 16.000 canales en una oblea de unos 25 centímetros. Mediante una panel solar que provea de 60 vatios de electricidad, el dispositivo debería ser capaz de purificar agua para una familia, aunque queda muy lejos de la capacidad de las plantas de desalinización por ósmosis inversa.

El equipo se sirvió de técnicas de fabricación de chips informáticos para producir el chip purificador, incluyendo el uso de silicio “blando”, en lugar del silicio “duro”.

Posibilidades de comercialización: Aunque es difícil que compita en costes con las desalinizadoras a gran escala el chip puede llegar a los puntos en los que aquéllas no son rentables.

Visto en Discovery News, vía Digg.

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