22 March 2010

A World of Fresh, Clean Water for the Taking

A new device out of MIT is aimed at making efficient desalinating devices cheap, portable, and battery-powered. Current desalination mechanisms are extremely expensive energy hogs. But the MIT device gets down to the molecular level to sort the water from the salt molecules. Using smarter nanotechnology, the job can be done better.
We are using a phenomenon called ion concentration polarisation to "push" the salt out of seawater,' says Jongyoon Han, who led the research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 'When a voltage is applied across a small membrane made from an ion-selective material such as Nafion, something unusual happens. On one side of the membrane, charged particles are repelled - and on the other side, they are collected.'

Han's team developed a microchip-sized device that funnels a stream of water down to a fork and splits into two channels. The entrance to one channel is covered with a charged Nafion membrane, which shields the water flowing down it and pushes any salt down the other channel. Crucially, the shield also repels other charged particles, both positive and negative, which includes most organic matter and microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses and other contaminants.

But to function effectively the process requires very small water channels and these can only produce tiny amounts of water on their own. 'Our future direction is similar to how the semiconductor industry makes microchips,' Han explains. 'We can envision thousands of water channels on a single chip - the goal is to make systems that can produce around a litre of purified water over ten minutes.'

Although Han admits this is a relatively small amount, it may be possible to run the device continually for a long time using solar power, which could be extremely valuable in areas of critical water shortage. _ChemistryWorld

Battery or solar powered portable desalination / water purification devices would be the perfect survival method of assuring clean water supplies wherever there is water of any kind. Pre-filters would be needed to elminate larger particles that would clog the micro-channel intakes, but such pre-filters are cheap and easily made from ordinary materials.

It will take some work to bring the manufacture of such devices up to scale, and to make them re-usable over a long time span. But that is why US taxpayers allow their governments to cut them to the quick -- to pay for world-leading research in virtually every area of science, biomedicine, and technology (among other things).

You may as well bask in all of this great science and technology while you can. Soon the US government will be diverting ever larger portions of its budget away from r&d and toward vast new exponentially growing entitlements + the rapidly growing interest on the federal debt.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we can mass produce these widgets, then this could replace the reverse osmosis desalting process allowing access to cheaper water for cities across the globe.

Tuesday, 23 March, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

That is what everyone is hoping.

Except the dieoff leftists, of course. They don't want to lose one of their up and coming "evil humans caused this doom" horror stories.

Tuesday, 23 March, 2010  
Blogger Michael Anissimov said...

I consider myself a leftist who agrees that we are expanding entitlements too much. You see, I'm not against the idea of entitlements in general (better to force racist republican assholes (not to say all republicans are racist, just many) to pay for basic social services for "brown people", than to let them off scott-free), but I simply think we've extended them too far at the present time. It's unaffordable.

Charity is sometimes seen as a common "Christian" duty, but since that isn't enough to ensure charity, we have to force it with taxes. Oh well. I don't think it's overly problematic until we get into a financially untenable situation, which only happened in the last couple decades.

Wednesday, 24 March, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, what do you define as "basic social services"?``

Wednesday, 24 March, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Ron, Michael is an old believer in a Kurzweilian singularity from super-intelligent machines. You can find his website from the "Accelerating Futures" link on the Al Fin sidebar.

In Michael's world, all person's needs would be taken care of by super-genius robots and computers -- until everyone decided to upload their intelligences into utopian machine environments.

It is a little different way of looking at things than most problem-solvers might take.

But the social service needs of "humans in software" might be easier to provide than for actual human beings in the flesh.

Friday, 26 March, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But the social service needs of "humans in software" might be easier to provide than for actual human beings in the flesh.

I agree, that would be a lot easier.

I went to the AF site, and from there I ended up at the Immortality Institute. The project that involved digging through soil to find enzymes to break down toxic buildups in the human body was very interesting.

Saturday, 27 March, 2010  

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