We are Branching Out into Important Breakthroughs in Clean Water and Power Generation
Part of our Hey! Look at That! Science Series
Science, technology, and innovation seem to follow a recognizable pattern. Someone comes up with an idea that seems impossible, or at least implausible. They stumble for a bit, even fail. The idea seems doomed. Then a second wind comes along, and the idea becomes a reality.
I recently ran across two ideas that had such setbacks in the past. But here they are now on the cusp of breakthroughs in two of the most important things in the world. Clean water and accessible energy are hard to top in a list of essential elements for life as we would like to live it. Take a look at some exciting prospects coming over the horizon.
Making Water from Thin Air. I saw that title in an article and it grabbed my attention. Clean water is one of the most fundamental things our species needs. It’s absence defines life for billions of people. There have long been machines that could capture moisture from air, but the process relied upon glorified condensation. It required high humidity levels.
Then along comes a company no one has heard of, Aqua Sciences. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was looking for better ways to provide water in dry environments. They had provided very large sums in research money to find a solution. When they put out a competitive bid for that solution, newcomer Aqua Sciences showed up. They blew away the competition.
I am cautious, as this is a new venture and how they do it is a closely guarded secret. But if the published data proves out, it is a dazzling accomplishment. A 20-foot machine can produce as much as 600 gallons of drinkable water a day.
It does so with no chemical or toxic residue. No more mountains of plastic bottles, no massive storage and transport needed. Oh, did I mention it does this for about 30 cents a gallon, even in places with humidity as low as 14%? It currently costs the military about $30 a gallon to provide water in such environments.
Let’s assume this proves out. The impact on disaster relief, refugee support, and life in areas without fresh water would be enormous. Tons of plastic – gone. Hours devoted to carrying water – gone. Disease from contaminated water – gone. Massive resources for storage and transport – gone. Water going bad while stored – gone.
If this works out as advertised, I vote to give these folks a Nobel prize in at least a couple of categories. And they are not the only ones attacking this problem. More solutions are sure to come. Read about Aqua Sciences at: https://www.wired.com/2006/10/making-water-from-thin-air/ and at http://www.aquasciences.com
Power from Plants. Scientists have long sought to copy natural photosynthesis to generate power. In fact, this has been done in the laboratory. But early attempts were inefficient, relied on toxic chemicals, and were very expensive. These earlier efforts were artificial reconstructs of the natural photosynthesis process. Now, scientists in the United Kingdom have conducted the process naturally, using algae and nontoxic man-made components. Others have found similar results with the same process.
Regular photosynthesis produces enough oxygen to sustain the plant. This modified method creates much more output, especially hydrogen, which has many energy applications.The process has no toxins and zero waste or emissions. This could be solar energy with nearly limitless potential in countless applications.
The work is not yet at scalable stages, but it looks promising, sooner rather than later. It is a long way from being productively employed, but major work is underway in the UK, USA, Germany, France, Spain, and no doubt elsewhere.
In an earlier time, people thought nuclear energy would solve all our energy problems. It would be “too cheap to meter.” Wouldn’t it be something if we finally did come up with a super-efficient, natural, limitless power source.
How neat if we did that by copying what plants have been doing for millions of years.
You can read more about this at https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Artificial-Photosynthesis-A-New-Renewable-Energy-Source.html and here https://futureoflife.org/2016/09/30/artificial-photosynthesis/
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