It’s a thirsty world out there. But with much of the globe’s drinking supply unimproved by treatment systems that can remove animal waste, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals, a clean sip of water is too often a luxury.
Many researchers and inventors are looking for cheaper and faster ways to get clean drinking water to people who lack it. On the industrial scale, people are refining filtration membranes by using advanced materials like graphene to make more efficient potable water supplies. Others are using architecture to make rain-harvesting buildings. For individuals, one designer has made a solar power distiller to turn saltwater fresh. These are just a few examples of a lot of brainpower going in to help around 780 million people who have limited access to clean water.
Now a Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) team says they have developed a novel personal filtration tool that will contribute to the solution. Using a three-stage system that includes an advanced polymer membrane, they say the device, called DrinkPure, works so quickly that it can filter up to a liter of water a minute.
Nature often plays a mean trick on thirsty people. Unless you’re stranded in the desert, there’s often water, water everywhere, yet nary a drop to drink.
The problem isn’t ever the water itself, but the things suspended in it. The grit, organic matter and larger particles are just the start of the problem. In even the clearest running streams, disease-causing microbes, industrial compounds or naturally occurring arsenic can pose serious health risks.
Then there’s nature’s biggest barb—more than 97 percent of the water on Earth is too salty to drink. Whether it’s seawater or saline groundwater, imbibing salt causes the body to dehydrate and start shutting down.
Significantly less than one percent of the planet’s total supply of water is available fresh water for the 7.2 billion people living today, the animals and the wild and crop plants. While that supply stays about the same over time, our growing, urbanizing population and expanding industrial footprint means ever more demand. Societies around the world must deal with freshwater scarcity every day—the UN says some 1.2 billion people live where water is physically scarce.
Yet with saltwater all around, the answer to the problem has always seemed so close.
This week on Txchnologist, we explored inventions and discoveries that have the potential to improve myriad lives. First, our correspondent talked to researchers who have engineered growth factors that speed the wound-healing process.
The quest to design better water filters continues. MIT researchers have created an efficient nanofilter by poking tiny holes in atom-thick graphene. Their results appear to be dramatically better than the traditional carbon water filters available on the market.
This week we also learned about new generators that produce energy from the smallest motions. The generator harvests the same kind of static electricity that you produce by shuffling across the carpet.
Our hearts melted when we watched 12-year-old Peyton Robertson describe his Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Education award-winning experiment. He used the scientific method come up with an innovative solution defending against floods.
Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.