In some parts of Ethiopia, finding potable water is a six-hour journey. People in the region spend 40 billion hours a year trying to find and collect water, says a group called the Water Project. And even when they find it, the water is often not safe, collected from ponds or lakes teeming with infectious bacteria, contaminated with animal waste or other harmful substances.
The water scarcity issue—which affects nearly 1 billion people in Africa alone—has drawn the attention of big-name philanthropists like actor and Water.org co-founder Matt Damon and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who, through their respective nonprofits, have poured millions of dollars into research and solutions, coming up with things like a system that converts toilet water to drinking water and a “Re-invent the Toilet Challenge,” among others. Critics, however, have their doubts about integrating such complex technologies in remote villages that don’t even have access to a local repairman. Costs and maintenance could render many of these ideas impractical.
“If the many failed development projects of the past 60 years have taught us anything,” wrote one critic, Toilets for People founder Jason Kasshe, in a New York Times editorial, “it’s that complicated, imported solutions do not work.” Other low-tech inventions, like this life straw, aren’t as complicated, but still rely on users to find a water source.
It was this dilemma—supplying drinking water in a way that’s both practical and convenient—that served as the impetus for a new product called Warka Water, an inexpensive, easily-assembled structure that extracts gallons of fresh water from the air.
By collecting rainwater, students of the Technological University of Mexico (UNITEC) were able to generate electricity using a microturbine and supplying the vital liquid to homes in a poor community in Iztapalapa, in Mexico City.
This system is similar to that used in dams, which uses rainwater to rotate a microturbine and generate electricity. Currently, it is only possible to recharge portable 12 volt batteries, whose energy is sufficient to power LED lamps but not to provide power to the entire house.
The system called “Pluvia” collects rain from the roof of the house, where the surface must be adapted so the water will flow into a gutter, if unable to modify the ceiling, sheets to simulate a slope are added, routing fluid in one direction, said Omar Enrique Leyva Coca , who developed the project with Romel Brown and Gustavo Rivero Velázquez .
NASA’s steady reconnaissance of Mars with the Curiosity rover has produced another major discovery: evidence of an ancient lake — with water that could plausibly be described as drinkable — that was part of a long-standing, wet environment that could have supported simple forms of life.
Scientists have known that the young Mars was more Earthlike than the desert planet we see today, but this is the best evidence yet that Mars had swimming holes that stuck around for thousands or perhaps millions of years. (It would have been very chilly — bring a wet suit.)
Scientists had announced this year that they’d found signs of an ancient, fresh-water lake within Gale Crater, but the new reports provide a much more detailed analysis, including the first scientific measurements of the age of rocks on another planet. The research suggests that Martian winds are sand-blasting rock outcroppings and creating inviting places to dig into rocks that may retain the kind of organic molecules associated with ancient microbes.
Gale Crater is in an area with rocks about 4.2 billion years old. The lake, which scientists think existed a little more than 3.5 billion years ago, was roughly the size and shape of one of New York’s Finger Lakes. The freshwater lake may have come and gone, and sometimes been iced over, but the new research shows that the lake was not some momentary feature, but rather was part of a long-lasting habitable environment that included rivers and groundwater.
A University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel.
The CU-Boulder team has devised a solar-thermal system in which sunlight could be concentrated by a vast array of mirrors onto a single point atop a central tower up to several hundred feet tall. The tower would gather heat generated by the mirror system to roughly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,350 Celsius), then deliver it into a reactor containing chemical compounds known as metal oxides, said CU-Boulder Professor Alan Weimer, research group leader.
As a metal oxide compound heats up, it releases oxygen atoms, changing its material composition and causing the newly formed compound to seek out new oxygen atoms, said Weimer. The team showed that the addition of steam to the system—which could be produced by boiling water in the reactor with the concentrated sunlight beamed to the tower—would cause oxygen from the water molecules to adhere to the surface of the metal oxide, freeing up hydrogen molecules for collection as hydrogen gas.
“We have designed something here that is very different from other methods and frankly something that nobody thought was possible before,” said Weimer of the chemical and biological engineering department. “Splitting water with sunlight is the Holy Grail of a sustainable hydrogen economy.”
The University of Engineering and Technology in Lima, Peru, wanted to attract new students for the 2013 school year, so they teamed up with DraftFCB and created the world’s very first water producing billboard for a city that sits in the middle of a desert, with almost no rainfall per year, an area where fresh, clean water is not guaranteed for everyone. It works by extracting water from the air that passes through the billboard, condensing it, cooling it and then storing it so that people can come to the billboard to collect safe drinking water.
New ways of interacting with digital displays can bring about important new possibilities for working – as the Kinect-basedIntera system for surgeons has proved. Now Japanese researchers have unveiled the AquaTop display, which consists of a screen projected onto the surface of water, controlled by interacting with the liquid.
Demonstrated at the Laval Virtual conference in France earlier this year – where it won the Interface and Materials Award, as well as the Grand Prix – the interface was developed by researchers at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo. The AquaTop uses cloudy water to act as a projection surface and – similar to the Intera – detects gestures with a Kinect. The creators engineered the system to use the water surface as an integral part of its control – for example, one action is carried out when users dip their fingertips to interact with a screen object, and another when they approach the item from underneath the water. On-screen items also react to the movement of the water, meaning that they can be moved or changed by simply disrupting the surface with a splash, or scooping up the water and placing it elsewhere.
The system has currently been rigged up primarily as a platform for games – with an underwater speaker included to create ripples when a goal is achieved – although the researchers have also demonstrated how it could be used to interact with computer files such as images and video. The following video shows the AquaTop in action:
AquaTop shows the possibilities of widely-available consumer products in the creation of engaging and intuitive new ways to interact with digital objects. Considering how many of us take our devices with us wherever we go, this could be used practically – bringing electronics safely into the bathroom, for example – or for creating unique public displays. If water can become a medium for digital interaction, surely the possibilities are endless?
Scientists have discovered water that has been trapped in rock for more than a billion years. The water might contain microbes that evolved independently from the surface world, and it’s a finding that gives new hope to the search for life on other planets.
The water samples came from holes drilled by gold miners near the small town of Timmins, Ontario, about 350 miles north of Toronto. Deep in the Canadian bedrock, miners drill holes and collect samples. Sometimes they hit pay dirt; sometimes they hit water, which seeps out from tiny crevices in the rock.
Recently, a team of scientists (who had been investigating water samples from other mines) approached the miners and asked them for fluid from newly drilled boreholes.
Greg Holland, a geochemist at Lancaster University in England, and his colleagues wanted to know just how long that fluid had been trapped in the rock. So they looked at the decay of radioactive atoms found in the water and calculated that it had been bottled up for a long time — at least 1.5 billion years.
“That is the lower limit for the age,” Holland says. It could be a billion years older. That means the water was sealed in the rock before humans evolved, before pterosaurs flew and before multicellular life.
The ability of cells to move and change shape is significant in many biological processes. White blood corpuscles gather at “hotspots” like infections and inflammations. Stem cells in the embryo move off in different directions to make the organs of the body. One unwanted movement is the movement of tumour cells, which lead to cancer metastasis.
Cells have a clear leading and trailing edge and move by a broad, thin membrane protrusion shooting out in front while the rest of the cell follows it. Small, finger-like filopodia (the green parts of the human renal cell pictured at left) can also project out from the protrusion, probably a type of cellular antenna that senses the chemical environment – bacterial secretions, for example.
But what governs this ability to move? Water, say the Linköping research team, who set out their hypothesis in the scientific journal PLOS One.
For a cell to be able to initiate a movement there needs to be a complex interaction between the outer cell membrane and the cytoskeleton on the inside. One of the most important components is the protein actin, which has the ability to create dynamic fibres that can grow at one end and recede at the other. The current thinking is that, in this way, the membrane can push out and create the protrusions. But experiments and modelling have led the LiU researchers to another picture of the mechanism.
“We looked at how cells create the membrane protrusions they need in order to be able to move. We showed that the water flow out of and into the cells through water channels, or aquaporins, in the cell membrane is important,” says Thommie Karlsson, researcher in medical microbiology and principal author of the article.
A small French start-up company is selling a technology with a hint of alchemy: turning water into gold.
It does so by extracting from industrial waste water the last traces of any rare—and increasingly valuable—metal. “We leave only a microgramme per litre,” according to Steve van Zutphen, a Dutchman who founded Magpie Polymers last year with a fellow 30-year old Frenchman Etienne Almoric. “It’s the equivalent of a sugar lump in an Olympic swimming pool.” Magpie Polymers operates from slightly shabby premises at a factory at Saint-Pierre-les-Nemours 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Paris. But it is at the leading edge of technology with a procedure developed at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique in 2007. The process is based on the use of tiny pellets of plastic resin through which waste water is pumped. Gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium, the world’s most precious metals, little by little stick to the pellets and are thus separated from the waste water. A single litre of this patented resin can treat five to 10 cubic metres of waste water and recover 50 to 100 grammes of precious metal, equivalent to “3,000 to 5,000 euros ($3,900 to $6,500),” Almoric said.
The top layer of the moon’s surface may hold far more water than previously thought, according to a new study.
The newly released study has found that water was most likely formed on the surface of the Moon by the constant stream of charged particles ejected from the Sun. The finding “represents an unanticipated, abundant reservoir” of water on the moon, according to researchers from three U.S. universities, who formally reported their results Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.
“That means you’ve got a lot of water stuck around in this glass that we never even thought too much about before,” says Dr. Lawrence Taylor, a University of Tennessee geochemist who advised Apollo astronauts gathering lunar samples and served as a member of the research team.
University of Michigan’s Youxue Zhang and colleagues at the University of Tennessee, and California Institute of Technology, say the sun’s solar winds create water through chemical reactions. Solar winds, which slam the solar system endlessly and is responsible for the auroras seen on planetary poles, is rich in hydrogen ions. These ions may combine with oxygen molecules on the moon’s surface, creating water, according to researchers.
The Surprisingly Strange Physics of Water
1. Race to the bottom
A logical person might assume that it would take longer for hot water to plunge down the temperature scale to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and freeze than would cold water. But oddly enough, this is not always the case. As was first observed by a Tanzanian high school student, Erasto Mpemba, in 1963, hot water actually freezes faster than cold water when the two bodies of water are exposed to the same subzero surroundings.
And no one knows why.
One possibility is that the Mpemba effect results from a heat circulation process called convection. In a container of water, warmer water rises to the top, pushing the colder water beneath it and creating a “hot top.” Scientists speculate that convection could somehow accelerate the cooling process, allowing hotter water to freeze faster than cooler water, despite how much more mercury it has to cover to get to the freezing point.
2. Levitating liquid
When a drop of water lands on a surface much hotter than its boiling point, it can skitter across the surface for much longer than you’d expect. Called the Leidenfrost effect, this occurs because, when the bottom layer of the drop vaporizes, the gaseous water molecules in that layer have nowhere to escape, so their presence insulates the rest of the droplet and prevents it from touching the hot surface below. The droplet thus survives for several seconds without boiling away.
Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater.
They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface.
The team have produced the most detailed map yet of the scale and potential of this hidden resource.
Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they stress that large scale drilling might not be the best way of increasing water supplies.
Across Africa more than 300 million people are said not to have access to safe drinking water.
Demand for water is set to grow markedly in coming decades due to population growth and the need for irrigation to grow crops.
Botanicalls Kits let plants reach out for human help! They offer a connection to your leafy pal via online Twitter status updates to your mobile phone. When your plant needs water, it will post to let you know, and send its thanks when you show it love. It comes as a kit so that you can hone your soldering skills (or teach someone else) while you build a line of communication between you and your houseplant!
This kit comes with everything you need to get your plant tweeting in no time. The ATmega328 comes pre-programmed, but you can customize it with your own messages. The only thing you need to provide is a plant, network connection (and Ethernet cable), and a power outlet.
This incredible water-powered jetpack lets you plow effortlessly through the water like a dolphin.
Data from a NASA planetary mission have provided scientists evidence of what appears to be a body of liquid water, equal in volume to the North American Great Lakes, beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
The data suggest there is significant exchange between Europa’s icy shell and the ocean beneath. This information could bolster arguments that Europa’s global subsurface ocean represents a potential habitat for life elsewhere in our solar system. The findings are published in the scientific journal Nature.
“The data opens up some compelling possibilities,” said Mary Voytek, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Program at agency headquarters in Washington. “However, scientists worldwide will want to take a close look at this analysis and review the data before we can fully appreciate the implication of these results.”
NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, launched by the space shuttle Atlantis in 1989 to Jupiter, produced numerous discoveries and provided scientists decades of data to analyze. Galileo studied Jupiter, which is the most massive planet in the solar system, and some of its many moons.
One of the great mysteries of planetary science is how Earth got so wet. By the time our planet formed about 4.5 billion years ago, the Sun’s heat had driven most of the Solar System’s complement of water out toward the edges. Most of it is still there, frozen solid in, among other things, the rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s moon Europa, the bodies of Neptune and Uranus and billions upon billions of comets.
But the Earth has plenty of water as well, and scientists have wondered for years how it got here. One leading theory: it came from a fusillade of comets that came screaming back in toward the Sun a half-billion years or so after our planet formed. That idea got a big boost just last week with the discovery that some comets, at least, have the same chemical signature as the water found on Earth.