Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sunlight + Semeconductors = Clean Water


With all the concern over data centers sucking up enormous amounts of power and worries about the many gallons of water required to make semiconductors, one would never think that chips could offer a solution to some of the world’s resource and environmental problems. But the semiconductor industry really, really wants you to use its chips to make life greener.

And in some cases, technology does offer an answer. An engineer from Mexico, for example, has used four different types of Freescale low-power processors to help distill water using sunlight, glass and a system of semiconductors to estimate water needs and deliver it around the house. The Digital Sun Distiller, from Jose Luis Rojas, won a design challenge put forth by chip maker Freescale.

Distillers generally work by taking collected household water and funneling it into a clear chamber box with a diagonal roof that is heated by the sun. The heat is high enough to kill impurities in the water, leaving a film of potable condensation on the roof of the distiller. That condensation then drips down the angled roof into a clean water receptacle.

It’s pretty low tech, but the addition of one of its chip to sense impurities, heat and to direct the water around the home is what made the technology so compelling for Freescale. Rojas plans to use the $50,000 prize money to help bring his product to market.

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