[dropcap]2013[/dropcap] The year of flying cars and private space travel right? My broken phone that’s lying on the floor next to the chair has more computing power than existed in the whole world 40 years ago We are no longer talking about how to reach space, but what mundane tasks to do when we get there. Hmm, well, there still is a big demand for real estate with a view.
But people smarter than me estimate that 20% of the worlds population has almost zero access to clean drinking water. Priorities, shmiorities. (shmiorities Jon, really?) Yeah really.
Well, thankfully, there are still quite a few more people out there, also smarter than me, that are working on solutions for this problem. If you haven’t heard of these ideas before, they are quite sciency (Yeah, I did it again. So?) Lets check out number one.
Self filling water bottles
This idea is number 1 for no other reason than it’s my favorite concept. A water bottle that gathers moisture from the ambient environment and fills itself for your drinking pleasure. NBD Nano is the name of the company, and I honestly believe they could change the world.The design is actually science at the nano-particle level. Using materials originally designed by MIT researchers to be used as water harvesting surfaces, they actually use a design that is extremely hydrophobic (water literally can not cling to it, it scatters away) and manipulate the surface texture in such away that it traps water. I won’t venture into the extreme details, but it’s a lot more complicated than just stretching some plastic over a tube and calling it a day. They manipulate nanoparticles and various experimental polymers in such a way that their prototypes are expected to draw up to 3 liters of water an HOUR depending on the environment.
Of course the idea doesn’t have to stop there. If you had a perpetually self-filling water bottle, why not have a perpetually self-filling hot water tank in your house? Radiator in your car? Public drinking fountains? I have to stop there, because so many other ideas kept popping into my head I could fill the whole article with them. The first production models are likely to be expensive, but that’s where this modern world of ours really excels. Flat screens that cost thousands of dollars 10 years ago can be had for hundreds these days. As technology becomes easier to produce, the products created from them tend to drop dramatically in price.
I feel like there are plenty of people out there with deep pockets that could find it in their hearts to contribute to a cause like this. Millions of children being able to drink freely without cramping and illness should be enough of a motivator to tug someone’s heartstrings. Or at least their wallets. After all, it’s not every day you get to invest in something that every person in the world could use.
I have to say, It was a toss up between the seawater greenhouse and the perpetual water bottle. (Sounds like a quote from Dr. Who.) And if I think about them too much I might have to switch them, so I’m just going to dive right in.
Finding a way to extract fresh water from the oceans has been on a lot of minds for a long time. And there have been many close successes. Sundrop Farms seems to have conquered many of the hurdles and created a system that is already functioning in many locations around the world. Their design not only produces clean, drinkable water from salt water, it creates a closed loop of energy, moisture and cooling/heating properties that can produce thousands of pounds of tomatoes a year. And it’s not a concept, they are already doing just that!
I admire this company because they have embraced many self-sustaining concepts without becoming total eco-maniacs. Their greenhouse draws on the salt water, heats it, which releases the moisture into the air of the greenhouse and cools the ambient temperature (most of the greenhouse are in hot, arid zones). They are almost completely solar powered and can turn a desert into a blooming garden in a few months. The system also promotes year round growing so the food output is only limited by the size of the greenhouse. Check out the graphic below for a visual of the system.
So far, the only waste produced are the filters on which the salt condenses – and these have lasted over two years without any sign of needing replacing. The designers anticipate the filters could be cleaned and reused or recycled as building materials. I could envision a few miles of these along the U.S. coastline, producing drinking water, solar energy and thousands of tons of fresh organic produce every year.
Hey, a guy can dream can’t he? Another idea that instantly came to mind was combining a system like this with a aquaculture system, which we have mentioned before. One of the issues they ran across in development was the quality of the water produced. It was actually too clean, to the point of being distilled. Distilled water is OK for drinking, but it lacks many of the nutrients needed for healthy plant production. It made me wonder if the addition of aquatic life to the system might resupply some of the vital nutrients, and provide a protein source to boot. Maybe one day.
Desert based water-producing wind turbines
Say that five times fast. This is a great idea based on (in my mind) a failing concept. Wind turbines that produce energy have proven to have some detrimental effects on local environments and birds. That might be less of problem in the desert, especially considering these are expected to produce up to 1000 liters of water a day. In the desert, Eole Water has already attracted the attention of top industrial partners like Siemens, Carel and Danfoss for their design.
Air is drawn in through vents on the turbine and heated to produce steam, the steam is condensed into water which is then filtered down to a tank system on the bottom. It doesn’t have the added benefit of producing food, and there are a lot of moving parts to maintain, but with turbine production still running full tilt in many parts of the world, It isn’t too far out to imagine on of these being set up in local village hubs. It might even help produce jobs, in that every time it broke down you would have to ship in engineers to fix it. Not to mention the cost of building one hovers at just over half a million dollars. Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and a thousand liters of clean water a day (Again. In the desert) is nothing to sneeze at.
Water producing billboard?
Last but not least was the novel concept that inspired me to write this article. A billboard that produces potable (drinkable) water. The University of Engineering and Technology in Peru designed a billboard that produces water from the humidity in the air. Well, maybe it is least. Out of all the concepts, this one requires a solid on-the-grid connection to perform its primary function. And while it may work in the desert, even in a climate with up to 90% humidity, it only produces about 100 liters a day. UTEC claims they are cheap to install, at about a 1200 dollar set up.
What’s interesting is the method the University chose to finance the project. You could set up a system like this anywhere, but rarely would the free water pay for its own creation. Attaching it to a billboard has added a revenue stream to the project, and they have even seen an increase in advertising interest after the first water billboard was produced, which was beneficial to the University and will hopefully fund more clean water for local Peruvians. Not bad for what started out as a demonstration of the school’s engineering program.
By Jonathan Parker | NaturalBlaze