Record-breaking paper water purifier operates at near 100% efficiency

May 7, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University at Buffalo have created a highly efficient device that uses sunlight and black carbon-dipped paper to clean water . The paper is placed in a triangular arrangement, which enables it to vaporize and absorb water with nearly 100 percent efficiency. The simple, inexpensive technology could be deployed in regions where clean drinking water is chronically unavailable or areas that have been acutely affected by natural disasters. “Our technique is able to produce drinking water at a faster pace than is theoretically calculated under natural sunlight,” said lead researcher Qiaoqiang Gan in a statement . The solar still concept, which uses sunlight to purify water, is ancient; Aristotle described a similar technique more than 2,000 years ago. The difference is the new device’s ability to achieve ultra-high efficiency. “Usually, when solar energy is used to evaporate water, some of the energy is wasted as heat is lost to the surrounding environment,” Gan explained. “This makes the process less than 100 percent efficient. Our system has a way of drawing heat in from the surrounding environment, allowing us to achieve near-perfect efficiency.” The carbon -dipped paper’s sloped orientation is key in achieving this efficiency, allowing the bottom edges to soak up water while the outer coating absorbs solar heat to be used in evaporation. Related: This moss can naturally eliminate arsenic from water The research team prioritized simplicity and accessibility in its design. “Most groups working on solar evaporation technologies are trying to develop advanced materials, such as metallic plasmonic and carbon-based nanomaterials,” Gan said. “We focused on using extremely low-cost materials and were still able to realize record-breaking performance.” Through their recently launched start-up, Sunny Clean Water, the team hopes to increase access to their device for areas in need. “When you talk to government officials or nonprofits working in disaster zones, they want to know: ‘How much water can you generate every day?’ We have a strategy to boost daily performance,” said Haomin Song, an electrical engineering PhD graduate, in a statement . “With a solar still the size of a mini fridge, we estimate that we can generate 10 to 20 liters of clean water every single day.” + University at Buffalo Via Futurity Images via Huaxiu Chen and Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo

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This moss can naturally eliminate arsenic from water

April 17, 2018 by  
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Through the magic of moss , anything is possible. Scientists at the University of Stockholm have discovered that  Warnstofia fluitans , or floating hook moss, is capable of extracting arsenic from water. The miracle moss is quick, too – it can make water safe to drink in just an hour. Scientists hope to use the breakthrough to develop wetland areas that can filter out arsenic from mining waste to make water clean for people, agriculture and animals downstream. “Our experiments show that the moss has a very high capacity to remove arsenic,” said research assistant and study co-author Arifin Sandhi . “It takes no more than an hour to remove 80 per cent of the arsenic from a container of water. By then, the water has reached such a low level of arsenic that it is no longer harmful to people.” Native to northern Sweden, floating hook moss offers a green, locally-based solution to a problem plaguing its native habitat. “We hope that the plant-based wetland system that we are developing will solve the arsenic problem in Sweden’s northern mining areas,” said study leader Maria Greger , commenting on the environmental legacy of the Swedish mining industry. Although the use of arsenic compounds in wood products was banned in 2004, the deadly element still infiltrates drinking water through mining, which exposes the water table to natural arsenic found deep within Sweden’s bedrock layer. Related: Gooey cactus guts remove arsenic and bacteria from polluted water Arsenic also poses a threat to agriculture , in which crops absorb arsenic-tainted water through their roots. “How much arsenic we consume ultimately depends on how much of these foods we eat, as well as how and where they were grown,” explained Greger. “Our aim is that the plant-based wetland system we are developing will filter out the arsenic before the water becomes drinking water and irrigation water.” The researchers envision the moss being applied to specific areas through its deliberate cultivation in streams and other bodies of water that pose a high risk of arsenic. Lessons learned in Sweden may then serve other parts of the world that also suffer from arsenic-tainted water. Via Treehugger Images via  Arifin Sandhi and Maria Greger

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Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that chomps plastic for lunch

April 17, 2018 by  
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Could we solve the plastic pollution crisis with a mutant enzyme? At a trash dump in 2016, Japanese researchers discovered the first known bacterium that had evolved to consume plastic . The Guardian reported an international team of researchers, building on that finding, began studying the bacterium to understand how it functioned — and then accidentally engineered it to be even better. A new plastic-eating enzyme which could solve one of the world's biggest environmental issues has been discovered by scientists at the University of Portsmouth and @NREL Read more: https://t.co/40SOf85ZW6 @PNASNews #environmentalscience Video credit: @upixphotography pic.twitter.com/U56vcpMoeW — University of Portsmouth (@portsmouthuni) April 16, 2018 Research led by University of Portsmouth and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) teams engineered an enzyme able to break down plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). NREL said the bad news about the find of the bacterium in the Japanese dump was that it doesn’t work quickly enough for recycling on an industrial scale. But while manipulating the enzyme, the international team inadvertently improved its ability to devour plastic. Related: Newly discovered plastic-eating bacteria could help clean up plastic waste around the world John McGeehan, University of Portsmouth professor, told The Guardian, “It is a modest improvement — 20 percent better — but that is not the point. It’s incredible because it tells us that the enzyme is not yet optimized. It gives us scope to use all the technology used in other enzyme development for years and years and make a super-fast enzyme.” This mutant enzyme begins degrading plastic in a few days, a sharp contrast to the centuries it would take for plastic bottles to break down in the ocean . “What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” McGeehan told The Guardian. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment .” Chemist Oliver Jones of RMIT University, who wasn’t part of the research, told The Guardian this work is exciting, and that enzymes are biodegradable , non-toxic, and microorganisms can produce them in big quantities. He said, “There is still a way to go before you could recycle large amounts of plastic with enzymes, and reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place might, perhaps, be preferable. [But] this is certainly a step in a positive direction.” The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the research. Scientists from the University of Campinas in Brazil and the University of South Florida contributed. + University of Portsmouth + National Renewable Energy Laboratory Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Pixabay

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The spinning house uses the force of hurricanes to anchor itself to the ground

December 28, 2017 by  
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This futuristic, hurricane-proof home is cleverly designed to use the force of storms to withstand extreme wind loads. Margot Krasojevi? Architects designed house to rotate around a helicoid retaining wall, burying itself into the land. The stronger the storm, the more tenaciously the home anchors itself to the earth. The Self-Excavation Hurricane House’s main living spaces are located in a precast reinforced concrete frame. This lightweight structure has a series of rubber-coated, concertina wall sections that provide the flexibility to adapt while the home rotates. Related: Floating, solar-powered ‘dragonfly’ bridge can sail to new locations The house is set upon an artificial island that is landscaped to flush flood water away from the main living areas. The surrounding topsoil directs water to deeper soil that functions as a bioswale . The wetland absorbs and temporarily stores floodwater, releasing it slowly into its surroundings. This part of the project helps with land reclamation and water purification . + Margot Krasojevi? Architects

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The spinning house uses the force of hurricanes to anchor itself to the ground

Cozy timber home embraces the Australian bush with a split form

December 28, 2017 by  
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Moloney Architects completed the Two Halves Home, a striking timber-clad home that takes its name from its two seemingly separated but interconnected pavilions. Located in the bushland of central Victoria, the modern residence was commissioned by owner-builder clients who sought a home that embraced the outdoors and social uses, while maintaining a sense of seclusion and privacy. The resulting light-filled home gives off a contemporary yet cozy feel with large windows that invite the outdoors in. Set on a sloping site, the Two Halves Home mitigated the topography with a split form. The private and public areas are also evenly divided between the home’s two connected pavilions . “The two pavilions essentially distinguish the functions of the house, splitting the public and private zones to give the main living spaces the best views and natural light access,” said Moloney Architects Principal, Mick Moloney. Overlooking south-facing views, the open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen are designed to foster casual conversation and intimate chats through the layout and furnishings, like the custom low-set bench seat that rings the room. Related: Contemporary Invermay House handsomely pairs spotted gum with concrete The bedrooms and bathrooms located upslope are smaller and more compartmentalized in comparison to the open-plan public area. The cozy light-filled interior features birch-faced plywood finish throughout. “It’s an important form gesture that expresses the sculptural nature of the interior architecture, and accentuates the warm heart of the space,” said Moloney, referring to the uniform use of plywood. + Moloney Architects Images by Christine Francis

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New MIT water purification method eliminates even trace chemical waste and pesticides

May 12, 2017 by  
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Ridding water of tiny concentrations of pollutants isn’t easy. Typically, a lot of energy or chemicals are required to remove these dangerous contaminants – but that could change. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany have come up with an electrochemical process able to pull out toxins like chemical wastes, pharmaceuticals , or pesticides . Their process could help people in developing countries obtain water without those unhealthy compounds. The scientists pioneered an electrochemical process able to selectively get rid of organic pollutants, which can be harmful even in minimal amounts. Here’s how it works: small surfaces are coated with Faradaic materials which can become positively or negatively charged after reactions. An electrical source is added to the surfaces, and then as water flows around the materials, the surface materials are tuned to bind with noxious pollutants. Unlike other systems that require either high pressures or high voltages to work, the new way can function at what chemical engineering professor T. Alan Hatton described as relatively benign low voltages and pressures. Related: Researchers develop solar-powered device to harvest water in the desert The system could help people in the developing world obtain water free of toxic pollutants. Chemical engineer Xiao Su of MIT , lead author on a paper published recently in Energy and Environmental Science , said in a statement, “Such systems might ultimately be useful for water purification systems in remote areas in the developing world, where pollution from pesticides, dyes, and other chemicals are often an issue in the water supply.” Su said the system, which is highly efficient, could operate even in rural locations with a little help from solar panels . The new method isn’t quite ready to go yet, but mechanical engineer Matthew Suss of Technion Institute of Technology in Israel seems hopeful. He said the system still needs to be tested under real-word conditions and for lengthy periods of time to see if it’s durable, but the prototype “achieved over 500 cycles, which is a highly promising result.” Via MIT News Images via Melanie Gonick/MIT and Felice Frankel

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New MIT water purification method eliminates even trace chemical waste and pesticides

Swedish researchers develop low-cost wood filter to purify water in refugee camps

March 22, 2017 by  
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At least 780 million people in the world lack access to clean water , a dire problem exacerbated by the increasing number of people living in poorly-equipped refugee camps . Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden may have come up with a low-cost, low-tech solution: a portable wood filter that doesn’t require a power source to produce clean water. KTH scientists developed a material from wood cellulose that can trap bacteria , and are testing the material for use as a water filter. PhD student Anna Ottenhall said, “Our aim is that we can provide the filter for a portable system that doesn’t need electricity – just gravity – to run raw water through it…The bacteria-trapping material does not leach any toxic chemicals into the water, as many other on-site purification methods do.” Related: Researchers design cheap mercury-free LED foil to purify water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NaJ2zRPleQ The wood cellulose fibers utilized are antibacterial, and are dipped in a positively-charged polymer solution to create the material, which works since bacteria and viruses are negatively charged, according to Phys.org. The harmful viruses and bacteria stick to the material, unable to get free or reproduce, and eventually die. Another benefit of this method of purification is that bacteria won’t be able to build up a resistance to it. The Swedish research team envisions their material used as a water filter in places that lack wells or infrastructure, like refugee camps or in emergencies. After use, the material can simply be burned. Bandages, packaging, and plasters could potentially draw on the material as well to dispose of bacteria in ways that don’t put toxins into the environment . KTH researchers are developing several other wood-based materials along with this wood water filter, such as see-through wood, a wood polystyrene alternative, and squishy wood batteries. Via Phys.org Images via KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Wikimedia Commons

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Swedish researchers develop low-cost wood filter to purify water in refugee camps

Researchers design cheap mercury-free LED foil to purify water

November 22, 2016 by  
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Utilizing light to purify water isn’t a new idea, but Ohio State University researchers recently developed a portable, cheap way to cleanse water with light anywhere in the world. Their LED foil prototype has the potential to revolutionize water purification with deep-ultraviolet (UV) light. Deep-UV lights are already used to purify medical equipment and water, but such light usually comes from cumbersome mercury lamps. By putting LED lights on metal foil, the Ohio State researchers may have avoided the problems usually associated with purifying water with deep-UV light. They designed their LEDs to glow with that sterilizing deep-UV light, and when their flexible prototype is folded around objects and energized, it could kill dangerous microorganisms. Related: Groundbreaking affordable, paper-thin filter removes viruses from water Roberto Myers, materials science and engineering associate professor at Ohio State, said in a statement, “Right now, if you want to make deep ultraviolet light, you’ve got to use mercury lamps. Mercury is toxic and the lamps are bulky and electrically inefficient. LEDs, on the other hand, are really efficient, so if we could make UV LEDs that are safe and portable and cheap, we could make safe drinking water wherever we need it.” The LED foil could offer a more environmentally friendly light to purify water. The researchers are confident they will be able to scale up their prototype; their goal is to transform nanophotonics, a study centered around how objects just nanometers big interact with light, into a profitable industry. “People always said that nanophotonics will never be commercially important, because you can’t scale them up,” said Myers. “Well, now we can. We can make a sheet of them if we want.” The journal Applied Physics Letters published the researcher’s paper on the LED foil. The researchers will continue working to make the LEDs shine brighter. Via New Atlas Images via Brelon J. May courtesy of The Ohio State University and Wikimedia Commons

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Researchers design cheap mercury-free LED foil to purify water

Open-source phytoremediation project tackles the Tiber River’s pollution crisis

April 15, 2016 by  
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Parabosol is a portable solar-powered water treatment system for remote areas

April 11, 2016 by  
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Over 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water globally. Although clean water is a basic human right, it continues to be a growing epidemic in the developing world, predominantly in remote communities. Hakan Gürsu of Designnobis devised the Parabosol , a portable solar-powered water purification system for use in remote areas. The system filters and purifies drinking water using a parabolic mirror that boils contaminated water at up to 400 degrees celsius. After boiling, a set of sand and carbon filters catch sand particles and remove odor dissolved gases. Parabosol can clean up to 170 liters of water in a single use. The project was honored with the silver award at the 2014-2015 A’ Design Awards, and it was also a nominee in Design Index 2015. + Parabosol The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link . Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing!

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