Wright’s system for desalinating water using solar power is set for a pilot demonstration in India.
Tata Fellow Natasha Wright has been named one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” in the category of energy. Wright is a doctoral candidate in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, working with Prof. Amos Winter’s GEAR Lab, and has been part of the Tata Center program since 2012.
Wright’s research focuses on providing safe, clean drinking water to rural, off-grid villages in India. Together with Prof. Winter, she has developed a solar-powered system that uses electrodialysis to remove salt and other contaminants from water – responding to a critical need she observed in India, where as much as 60% of the groundwater is brackish.
While electrodialysis systems have been around for decades, they had never been designed for the off-grid village setting, where solutions for clean drinking water are desperately needed and tight energy constraints are a factor. Wright’s design is energy-efficient and not reliant on a grid connection. Its uses aren’t limited to the developing world, either. Winter and Wright see applications in the U.S., and have already piloted it at remote ranches in New Mexico, where the well-water is too salty even for livestock.
In 2015, Winter and Wright won USAID’s Desal Prize, recognizing the most promising new technology in water desalination. They beat out teams from around the globe, and now plan to pilot their system in water-stressed regions of India and Gaza.
The Forbes 30 Under 30 label puts Wright in diverse company with innovators from all walks of life, including Star Wars actor John Boyega, model Ashley Graham, and basketball star Stephen Curry.