Village-Scale Water Desalination

Due to the scarcity of fresh, potable groundwater and the unreliability of the electric grid in many parts of rural India, there is a great need for off-grid desalination systems. Current research in the GEAR Lab has been focusing on off-grid, photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis reversal (PV-EDR) desalination. Capital cost is a major barrier to the adoption of desalination technologies in India, and the power system of off-grid PV-EDR systems is the major contributor to the high capital cost of current systems. For this reason, this project is focused on designing the minimum-cost power system for EDR that can meet local water demand. Photovoltaic power is a desirable and logical choice because high solar irradiance is abundant in the regions of India with the greatest desalination needs. At the groundwater salinity levels of India, EDR requires approximately 50% less energy and wastes less water than reverse osmosis (RO), the most prevalent desalination technology available. Given the complexity of the relationships within the PV-EDR system, system optimization is required to design the lowest-cost system for a given location. The goal of this research is, firstly, to develop a method for cost-optimizing an off-grid PV-EDR desalination system that meets location-specific water requirements. The next stage of the research is building and testing a PV-EDR prototype in a village in India.


MIT Photovoltaics Research Laboratory
Tata Power Solar


Tata Projects
Tata Center for Technology and Design
Jain Irrigation
National Science Foundation


Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Design of spiral-wound electrodialysis modules [⇩] [πŸ”—]
Wright, N.C., & Winter, A., Desalination (2019)

Optimization and design of a low-cost, village-scale, photovoltaic-powered, electrodialysis reversal desalination system for rural India [⇩] [πŸ”—]
Bian, D.W., Watson, S.M., Wright, N.C., Shah, S. R., Buonassisi, T., Ramanujan, D., Peters, I.M., & Winter, A., Desalination (2018)

Advantages of Operation Flexibility and Load Sizing for PV-Powered System Design [⇩] [πŸ”—]
Watson, S., Bian, D., Sahraei, N., Winter V, A.G., Buonassisi, T., & Peters, I.M., Solar Energy (2018)

A Robust Model of Brackish Water Electrodialysis Desalination with Experimental Comparison at Different Size Scales [⇩] [πŸ”—]
Wright, N. C., Shah, S. R., Amrose, S.E., & Winter, A., Desalination (2018)

Justification for Community-Scale Photovoltaic-Powered Electrodialysis Desalination Systems for Inland Rural Villages in India [⇩] [πŸ”— ]
Wright, N.C. & Winter, A., Desalination (2014)

Peer Reviewed Conference Articles

Model and Experimental Validation of a Spiral-Wound Electrodialysis Module
Wright, N.C., & Winter, A., Proceedings of the International Desalination Association World Congress on Water Reuse and Desalination (2017), IDA17WC-57872, Sau Paulo, Brazil

Sustainability Analysis of PV-Powered Electrodialysis Desalination for Safe Drinking Water in the Gaza Strip [πŸ”—]
Ramanujan D., Wright, N. C., Truffaut S., von Medeazza G., & Winter, A., Proceedings of the International Desalination Association World Congress on Water Reuse and Desalination (2017), IDA17WC-58045, Sau Paulo, Brazil

Cost-Optimization of Solar-Powered Electrodialysis Reversal Systems for Desalination in Rural India
Bian, D., Watson, S.M., Wright, N.C., Shah, S., Peters, I. M., Ramanujan, D., Buonassisi T., & Winter, A., Proceedings of the International Desalination Association World Congress on Water Reuse and Desalination (2017), IDA17WC-58067, Sau Paulo, Brazil

Village-Scale Electrodialysis Desalination: Field Trial Validation [πŸ”—]
Wright, N.C., & Winter, A., Design Automation Conference ASME IDETC/CIE (2017)

Design of a Village-Scale PV Powered Electrodialysis Reveral System for Brackish Water Desalination in India [⇩]
Wright, N.C., Van de Zande, G.D., & Winter, A., The International Desalination Association World Congress on Desalination and Water Reuse (2015)

Energetic and Socioeconomic Justification for Solar-Powered Desalination Technology for Rural Indian Villages [πŸ”— ]
Wright, N.C., & Winter, A., ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (2014)


Cost optimization of a solar-powered electrodialysis desalination system [πŸ”— ]
Watson, S., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2017)

Design, development, and field-testing of a cost-optimized village-scale, photovoltaic-powered, electrodialysis reversal water desalination system for rural India [πŸ”— ]
Bian, D., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2017)

Justification of village scale photovoltaic powered electrodialysis desalination systems for rural India [πŸ”— ]
Wright, N. C., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2014)

Press Articles

Desalination work featured in "3Q: Robert Armstrong on 10 years of energy research at MIT", on MIT News (2017)[πŸ”— ]

Desalination work featured in "Celebrating Energy at MIT", on MIT Energy Initiative (2017) [πŸ”— ]

β€œWater is Life”, the video on our desalination work in India wins the New England Emmy Awards (2017) [πŸ”— ]

β€œWater is Life”, the video on our desalination work in India wins the 2017 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Video (2017) [πŸ”— ]

Natasha Wright Graduate Winner of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize "Eat it!" (2017) [πŸ”— ]

MIT News (2016) [πŸ”— ]

MIT News (2015) [πŸ”— ]

Boston Globe on the USAID Desalination Prize (2015) [πŸ”— ]