Water Purifier Made of Paper is Almost 100% Efficient

As someone engaged in water research, it’s difficult to break records when there’s already news of an Indian startup producing water from thin air or an Australian team modifying a metal that can clean water super quickly. But that’s exactly what researchers at the University of Buffalo did when they tested out their innovative device that uses sunlight and black carbon-dipped paper to purify water — its nearly 100% efficiency rate appears record-breaking indeed.

“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 . . . “Usually, when solar energy is used to evaporate water, some of the energy is wasted as heat is lost to the surrounding environment . . . Our system has a way of drawing heat in from the surrounding environment, allowing us to achieve near-perfect efficiency.”

The sloping carbon-dipped paper is crucial to the device’s efficiency. The bottom edges of the water purifier soaks up water while its outer coating absorbs solar energy to facilitate evaporation. This makes way for the purification process. The structure seems simple enough. And according to the scientists, incredibly accessible too.

According to them as well, what set their device apart from those of other groups that try to develop a water purifier with solar tech is that they didn’t prioritize finding advanced materials such as carbon-based nanomaterials and other expensive metals. Instead, the researchers wanted to focus on creating something that was extremely low-cost yet efficient.

This is consistent with their ultimate goal, which is to make the water purifier device useful to regions that need it the most, including disaster-stricken areas. To achieve it, the researchers also made their own startup called Sunny Clean Water.

“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.”

I always knew writers like me could use our medium to promote causes like sustainability, water conservation, and the like. But who knew paper could literally purify water, especially at this speed and efficiency?

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Aquatic Moss Makes Contaminated Water Drinkable

Algae used to be fashionable, what with eco-friendly biomass algae shoes and green chandelier air purifiers. Something that looks quite similar (though is biologically different), moss, used to be functional and innovative, with equally eco-friendly moss-covered tires that absorb moisture and expel oxygen.

But now moss is just plain genius and essential, as scientists in Sweden discover an aquatic one that purifies water contaminated with arsenic, enough that it even becomes potable.

Researchers at Stockholm University say the aquatic moss, warnstofia fluitans, which flourishes in northern Sweden, can rapidly absorb arsenic, removing as much as 82 per cent of the toxins within one hour in some tests.

Due to mining operations in this part of Sweden, wetlands and water sources used for drinking and for growing crops are often contaminated with arsenic.

Arsenic is known to be a waste product from mining. Mine tailings are often toxic and difficult to separate from waste deposits, and toxin concentrations often end up in water sources. This makes mining a major environmental issue.

“We hope that the plant-based wetland system that we are developing will solve the arsenic problem in Sweden’s northern mining areas,” said Maria Greger, associate professor at the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences at Stockholm University and leader of the research group.

The process of cleaning the contaminated water done by the aquatic moss is called phylofiltration. The researchers have also mentioned that sometimes this process takes no more than an hour, which is indeed very quick. If only more humans are inspired to be as quick to act in the name of the environment.

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U.K. Installing Water Vacuums To Collect Waste

Technological advancements such as swimming robots and metallic glass have helped to alleviate water pollution. Despite this, consumers are polluting lakes and oceans quicker than we can restore them. To combat unreliable waste management, Indiegogo creators are taking “Seabins” to the U.K.

The Seabin’s creators say that each unit can collect around 1.5kg of waste a day and hold up to 12kg until it’s full. That amounts to 20,000 plastic bottles or 83,000 plastic bags a year.

At a plump price tag of £3,000, the Seabin is a splurge, but perhaps a necessary one. It functions simply and efficiently and is hardly a struggle to transport.

It houses a combination of a large natural fibre net and a dock-based pump (fed by the hook-like metal pole). This only collects debris floating on top of the water and sucks in surface oils, ensuring fish are safe.

Throw a few dozen Seabins into the Pacific and I’d say oil spills could be the least of anyone’s worries. It’s two thumbs up for this clever device.

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Air Humidity: A New Source Of Electricity?

If all it takes to generate energy nowadays is a walk and a bit of sweat, it should come as no surprise that it’s also possible to create electricity out of thin air. Or, rather, air that is slightly humid.

[Biophysicist professor Ozgur Sahin’s] laboratory has developed one kind of ‘evaporation engine’, which works by using the movement of bacteria in response to changes in humidity.

Shutters either opened or closed to control moisture levels, prompting bacterial spores to expand or contract. This motion is then transferred to a generator and turned into electricity.

With technologies to convert wind, water, and heat into energy, it seems anything has the potential to do the same. As with anything in its early stages, researchers are treading carefully so as not to affect water resources. However, the machines may be a saving grace to drought-prone areas, as they reduce water loss.

“Some… regions suffer from periods of water stress and scarcity, which might favour implementation of these energy harvesting systems due to the reduction of evaporative losses.”

According to recent calculations, the technology could save 25 trillion gallons of water a year. It’s a godsend, considering how many people aren’t willing to give up hot, hourlong showers. It’s also a harsh reminder that we ought to do our part as consumers.

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Indian Startup to Produce Water from Thin Air

These days, the challenge of sustainability elicits many different creative responses: leather out of wine, air purifiers made of algae, even energy from cow and turkey poop. Truly the stranger, the better. A new project from an Indian startup company makes the sun and the wind come together to create water. How does that sentence make sense? Uravu answers our question.

The company’s affordable, electricity-free Aqua Panels use solar thermal energy to convert vapor into usable water – and they should be available to the public within two years. “There’s no need of any electricity or moving parts,” Uravu co-founder Swapnil Shrivastav told Quartz India. “It is just a passive device that you can leave on your rooftop and it will generate water. The process starts at night, and by evening next day you’ll have water.”

The process of producing water from vapor has already been developed and utilized before, mostly for industrial and agricultural purposes, but the outdated versions of this technology had to consume large amounts of energy and humidity—innovative, yes, but not yet as sustainable as the above-mentioned Aqua Panels. Uravu wants their device to suit domestic use.

“Initially we’ll be working with governments and strategic partners, and we want to reach places where there is water scarcity, such as parts of Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, and rural areas,” explained Shrivastav. “We will be trying to start with a household device and aim at community-level projects.”

Ultimately, the Indian company aims to make the process more simple to make it more accessible for people who lack resources. Sustainability takes many different forms, but surely it is best when it answers to society’s greatest needs.

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New Pen Technology Can Detect Cancer In Seconds

Each year we are a step closer to finding a cure for cancer. Whether by gene altering cells or hoarding avocado husks, the ultimate goal is to efficiently remedy the disease. However, diagnosing cancer can be equally as difficult. Thanks to science, a new pen technology can detect cancer in mere seconds.

The MasSpec Pen can recognize cancerous cells nearly 150 times faster than existing technology and has a more than 96% accuracy rate.

Um, wow? The pen can also identify exactly which tissues are affected by the cancer during an operation. Patients can now bid their fear of “not removing all the cancer” goodbye. The pen has a straightforward interface.

The pen works by releasing a tiny droplet of water onto the tissue, which soaks up chemicals inside the cells.

The water is then sucked back up and analyzed by an instrument known as a mass spectrometer, which can detect thousands of molecules and identify compounds associated with cancer.

Surgeons are optimistic that the MasSpec Pen will be available to use next year. Hopefully, it isn’t too long of a wait for patients.

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Senior Swimmer Sets Freestyle World Record

World records and the elderly don’t usually ring a bell, unless you’re talking giant casseroles. All the same, some aren’t letting the “old and wretched” stereotype fly, especially not George Corones. The Australian swimmer recently broke the 50-meter long course record by 35 seconds — and he’s 99-years-old!

“It was an exemplary swim for me, well balanced… and I was ready to hit the [wall] at the end very hard with my hand,” he [said].

The superstar senior swam the length in just 56.12 seconds, for the 100 – 104 years men’s category. I didn’t even know people lived that long. Corones’ swimming career was put on hold during World War II and re-commenced at the age of 80.

“I gave it up at the beginning of the war [World War Two], and I don’t think I had a swim of any description until I retired,” he added.

“I started swimming again for exercise.”

Looks like exercise brought this aging man of steel a long, long way! (To the Commonwealth Games trials, to be exact)

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Pepsi Debuts Ingenious Reusable Bottle

There’s a lot you can do with a plastic bottle. Turn it into an electricity-free lamp or, if you have enough of it, a piece of furniture. Now that sea levels are rising at unstoppable rates, Pepsi is taking sustainability to heart. The beverage manufacturer is debuting the Drinkfinity pod system, a 20-ounce reusable water bottle.

The pods themselves, which feature two compartments—one for liquid flavoring and one for dry ingredients like chia seeds—are made with 65 percent less plastic than a standard 20-ounce bottle.

Four varieties of flavorful pods aim to replace caffeine and sweet tea, and boast vitamin and electrolyte benefits. Talk about an all-in-one sports drink. At $20 a bottle and $5 for a pack of pods, Pepsi isn’t hogging all the cash delights.

To round out a drink tailor made for the present day and age, PepsiCo will donate $1 from each purchase made in 2018 to Water.org (mitigating the product’s potential success, the company has capped their contribution at $100,000).

Gatorade for a cause? I’m all in!

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MIT Designs Dome Forest Habitat To Win Mars Contest

Preparing for life on Mars has become increasingly tedious, especially after discoveries of snow on the planet. Nevertheless, places like the UAE are eager to push forward the limits of space study, building a massive Mars metropolis. You know — just in case. But clearly, it’s MIT engineers who are coming out on top after snatching the top prize at the Mars City Design contest for their dome habitats.

MIT’s winning design, which the team calls Redwood Forest, is a collection of “tree habitats” connected through a system of tunnels called “roots.” The roots would provide safe access to other tree habitats, private spaces and “shirt-sleeve transportation,”

If the designs make it to Mars, each dome would house up to 50 inhabitants. Realistically, the ambitious tech team hopes to build 200, which guarantees 10,000 hopefuls a spot on life beyond Earth.

“On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith (or soil), and sun to support life,” MIT postdoctoral researcher Valentina Sumini said.

It’s a daunting prospect, if it does happen. Hopefully MIT’s “forest” will make future residents feel right at home.

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New U.K. Water Fountains To Help Cut Plastic Waste

Each year, an astounding number of plastic products brim over from landfills and into oceans. To reduce this ever-rising amount, companies are dumpster-diving for bottles, up-cycling them into boats and furniture. Although proper disposal remains a primary issue, encouraging a zero-waste lifestyle is just as pressing. To prevent greater damage caused by plastic bottles, Water U.K. is installing refill stations across England.

“This country has some of the best drinking water in the world and we want everyone to benefit from it.” [said Water U.K. chief executive Michael Roberts.]

Users can pinpoint refill stations on a smartphone app. In Bristol alone, the app will ping you to 200 individual fountains. If bottle-users went for a single refill per week for an entire year, the city could shrink waste by 22.3 million bottles.

“This scheme will do that by making it easier for people to refill their bottles wherever they work, rest, shop or play.”

If you’re on a mission to stay healthy, remember that keeping plastic out of oceans is also part of the job.

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