The present invention provides a new method and apparatus/system for purifying ionic solutions, such as, for example, desalinating water, using engineered charged surfaces to sorb ions from such solutions. Surface charge is applied externally, and is synchronized with oscillatory fluid movements between substantially parallel charged plates. Ions are held in place during fluid movement in one direction (because they are held in the electrical double layer), and released for transport during fluid movement in the opposite direction by removing the applied electric field. In this way the ions, such as salt, are "ratcheted" across the charged surface from the feed side to the concentrate side. The process itself is very simple and involves only pumps, charged surfaces, and manifolds for fluid collection.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.