Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico


 Atlas_Jack Houghton

Although 70% of our planet is covered with it, only 0.5% of our water needs are satisfied by desalinating seawater. There is a demand to develop new methods as current ones are polluting, expensive and high in energy cost. In response to this, a new method of desalination is being developed by a cross-faculty collaboration of KCL researchers originating from a previous collaboration with artist Inés Cámara Leret. Commissioned by Science Gallery London, Spit Crystals brought together researchers from the Randall Division and Dental Institute. Throughout this work crystals were grown from saliva showing the importance of proteins in the crystallisation process, leading to the idea that seawater could be desalinated through crystal formation.

Atlas presents this new method of desalination, accompanied by a short explanatory film explaining and discussing the impact of the work, as well as an interactive website. We will invite people globally to send samples of their local seawater developing an archive that will be available online, of free access, and will allow them to track their contribution. Those visiting the exhibition may select a sample from the archive and place it into a liquid-dispensing robotic machine. This machine, built by repurposing outdated lab equipment, will allow participants to witness the crystal formation process in real time.

Atlas recontextualises a process that happens naturally through the displacement of saliva and situates it as a method to tackle the rising problematic of sourcing water suitable for our needs and consumption. As such, this work will address global issues of current poor desalination methods and offer a new alternative to our current landscape.

This project is a collaboration between King's College London's Department of Mucosal and Salivary Biology and artist Inés Cámara Leret, supported by the university's Culture team as part of the Early Career Researchers scheme.

Stay in touch

Email the Culture team

Sign up to the newsletter