Science Scope

At PARC, purifying wastewater without a filter

Posting in Design

Using the flowing motion of water and centrifugal force, a portable device built by a PARC scientist purifies wastewater.

In the heart of Silicon Valley at the Palo Alto Research Center, scientist Meng Lean hovered proudly over his invention. I went with the SmartPlanet video crew to PARC to visit Lean’s cluttered laboratory to see the water inventor in his element and to see exactly how the device worked.

Lean said his machine might impact the way we purify water in the future. The hydrodynamic separation system splits the waste particles from the clean water.

In the video, you’ll see that the black, carbon particles separate from the clean water. The membrane-less filtration system takes advantage of how water moves. That way, the device doesn’t need a filter to separate clean water from wastewater.

The water machine uses centrifugal force to efficiently recycle the waste stream. The device was born when Lean was designing a water purification system for the Army years ago.

Lean thinks his machine can be used for desalination, which is a process that separates salt from seawater to produce drinking water or water good enough for irrigation purposes.

There’s a real market for a machine like this.

“There’s an urgency to create a portable water solution,” Lean said. "This water machine could be used to supply water to small communities.”

But the water is not drinkable like the one we wrote about a few weeks ago (LifeGivingForce’s water machine). Or else you would have seen Lean taking some sips from the hose instead of holding it up in beakers.

But the water would be good enough to clean your car. An oil company, for instance, could use the system to recycle the water from its normal operations.

The machine offers a cheap and more efficient way to purify water. It will be interesting to see if the water machine ever makes its way out of the humble PARC laboratory and into the world like many other PARC inventions have been destined to.

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure