Solar-Powered Still Turns Salty Ocean Water Fresh

Without access to fresh, clean drinking water, millions of people around the world must endure compromised health conditions and a poor standard of living. Many, mostly women, are forced to walk long hours to find water supplies, which are often polluted, only to face the backbreaking task of carrying it home. By the year 2025, 2/3 of the world population will lack sufficient fresh water, so this problem is only going to get worse if we don’t find a practical solution

Designer Gabriele Diamanti has spent many years traveling the world, and seen this problem repeated over and over. He decided to use his knowledge of industrial design, renewable energy, and social issues to create a possible solution. What emerged is something Diamanti likes to call a solar still: a device that takes salt or brackish water and creates something drinkable.


Image via Gabriele Diamanti/Core 77

Called “Eliodomestico,” which roughly translated means “Sun-household”, the device is low-tech and low-cost, made of simple, replaceable parts that will be familiar to those who use it. To use the still, it must first be filled with salt or brackish water during the morning hours. Once the boiler is tightly sealed, climbing temperatures cause the pressure inside to increase. The resulting steam is forced downwards through a connection pipe and collects in the lid, which acts as a condenser, turning the steam into fresh water.

Eventually, the solar-powered home distillery could provide benefits that extend far beyond fresh water. “It can deliver very positive outcomes for the local economies, because it’s designed to be produced (and eventually repaired) by local craftsmen, thus generating a market,” writes Diamanti. “Craftsmen from many different places can produce the distiller, using the materials that they already can manage. The production techniques are very sustainable, already present in the developing countries, so there is no need to teach anything to the craftsmen.” The project recently won a Core77 Design Award for Social Impact, and Diamanti hopes that soon, people will adapt the opensource design to solve problems in their own region.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog


  • Reply August 18, 2012

    Ken Blystone

    Off Grid Solar Trainer

  • Reply August 22, 2012

    Sudheer Shukla

    Hi Beth,

    A friend of mine is going to India soon, and would VERY MUCH like to find out how to get this kind of solar-powered till for villages in Gujarat which have access to nothing but salty water. Please e-mail me at (I’ve tweeted you, and would have e-mailed you, but I couldn’t find your e-mail address.) Thank you! Looking forward to hearing from you.


    Sudheer (Shukla)

  • Reply August 22, 2012


    Just as brilliant as the rocket-stove – and it seems just as simple. Quite brilliant.

  • Reply August 22, 2012

    scott kennedy

    We live on the great Bja peninsula where sea water is available but little sweet water.I am greatly interested to know more about his simple technology,Please if possible let me know some more.

  • Reply August 27, 2012

    Patrick Labay

    add a Fresnel lens on top to increase the output

  • Reply August 27, 2012


    This device appears to produce distilled water, so it has no mineral content. Distilled water isn’t safe to drink for prolonged periods because it removes minerals from the body. How does this device maintain, or reintroduce, appropriate minerals in the water? What should people do with the remains of the process?

    • Reply September 8, 2012

      Monica Leal

      Yes jcfried is right. I almost died from drinking distilled water for 15 years! Long-term it’s VERY dangerous, especially for children whose bones and organs are forming and growing. I appreciate the idea and think it’s great for emergencies, but they should figure out a way to return minerals to it, to make it safe for long-term use.

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