Drinkable Water Out of Thin Air!

Finally, a Billboard That Creates Drinkable Water Out of Thin Air

By Matt Peckham @mattpeckham

No really, it’s a billboard that can generate up to 26 gallons of water a day from nothing but air.

I’ve never cared much for billboards. Not in the city, not out of the city — not anywhere, really. It’s like the saying in that old Five Man Electrical Band song. So when the creative director of an ad agency in Peru sent me a picture of what he claimed was the first billboard that produces potable water from air, my initial reaction was: gotta be a hoax, or at best, a gimmick.

Except it’s neither: The billboard pictured here is real, it’s located in Lima, Peru, and it produces around 100 liters of water a day (about 26 gallons) from nothing more than humidity, a basic filtration system and a little gravitational ingenuity.

Let’s talk about Lima for a moment, the largest city in Peru and the fifth largest in all of the Americas, with some 7.6 million people (closer to 9 million when you factor in the surrounding metro area). Because it sits along the southern Pacific Ocean, the humidity in the city averages 83% (it’s actually closer to 100% in the mornings). But Lima is also part of what’s called a coastal desert: It lies at the northern edge of the Atacama, the driest desert in the world, meaning the city sees perhaps half an inch of precipitation annually (Lima is the second largest desert city in the world after Cairo). Lima thus depends on drainage from the Andes as well as runoff from glacier melt — both sources on the decline because of climate change.

Enter the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC), which was looking for something splashy to kick off its application period for 2013 enrollment. It turned to ad agency Mayo DraftFCB, which struck on the idea of a billboard that would convert Lima’s H2O-saturated air into potable water. And then they actually built one.

It’s not entirely self-sufficient, requiring electricity (it’s not clear how much) to power the five devices that comprise the billboard’s inverse osmosis filtration system, each device responsible for generating up to 20 liters. The water is then transported through small ducts to a central holding tank at the billboard’s base, where you’ll find — what else? — a water faucet. According to Mayo DraftFCB, the billboard has already produced 9,450 liters of water (about 2,500 gallons) in just three months, which it says equals the water consumption of “hundreds of families per month.” Just imagine what dozens, hundreds or even thousands of these things, strategically placed in the city itself or outlying villages, might do. And imagine what you could accomplish in any number of troubled spots around the world that need potable water with a solution like this.

Mayo DraftFCB says it dropped the billboard along the Pan-American Highway at kilometer marker 89.5 when summer started (in December, mind you — Lima’s south of the equator) and that it’s designed to inspire young Peruvians to study engineering at UTEC while simultaneously illustrating how advertising can be more than just an eyesore. (Done and done, I’d say.)
“We wanted future students to see how engineers can also solve social needs in daily basis kinds of situations,” said Alejandro Aponte, creative director at Mayo DraftFCB.

The city’s residents could certainly use the help. According to a 2011 The Independent piece ominously titled “The desert city in serious danger of running dry,” about 1.2 million residents of Lima lack running water entirely, depending on unregulated private-company water trucks to deliver the goods — companies that charge up to 30 soles (US $10) per cubic meter of H2O, or as The Independent notes, 20 times what more well-off residents pay for their tapwater.

See A video Here: http://www.reshareable.tv/never-thought-a-billboard-could-be-used-this-way.html?h=1

Climate Engineering a Good Idea?

Climate EngineeringClimate Engineering No Longer Pie in the Sky

Scientists backed by the government and Bill Gates are studying schemes such as sunlight-blocking particles

This rendering [to the right] shows a cloud-brightening scheme by scientist John Latham in which a ship sprays salt particles into the air to reflect sunlight and slow global warming. (John MacNeil)

WASHINGTON — As international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions stall, schemes to slow global warming using fantastical technologies once dismissed as a sideshow are getting serious consideration in Washington.

Ships that spew salt into the air to block sunlight. Mirrored satellites designed to bounce solar rays back into space. Massive “reverse” power plants that would suck carbon from the atmosphere. These are among the ideas the National Academy of Sciences has charged a panel of some of the nation’s top climate thinkers to investigate. Several agencies requested the inquiry, including the CIA.  At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, scientists are modeling what such technologies might do to weather patterns. At the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., a fund created by Microsoft founder Bill Gates — an enthusiast of research into climate engineering — helps bankroll another such effort. “There is a level of seriousness about these strategies that didn’t exist a decade ago, when it was considered just a game,” said Ken Caldeira, a scientist with the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University, who sits on the National Academy of Sciences panel. “Attitudes have changed dramatically.”

Even as the research moves forward, many scientists and government officials worry about the risks of massive climate-control contraptions. Some fear the potential for error in tampering with the world’s thermostat. Get it wrong, they say, and the consequences could be disastrous. Many also say the public could develop a false hope that geo-engineering schemes alone could halt climate change. That, they worry, would undermine already tenuous support for efforts to seriously reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to warming the climate. Even so, once-skeptical federal officials and scientists at major research institutions including Stanford, Harvard and Caltech have decided that ignoring these largely untested technologies also poses dangers. “There has been so little movement globally and, particularly, nationally toward mitigation of climate change that we’re in a situation where we need to know what the prospects are for this,” said Marcia McNutt, a former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, who is chairwoman of the National Academy of Sciences panel. “Whether we wind up using these technologies, or someone else does and we suddenly find ourselves in a geo-engineered world, we have to better understand the impacts and the consequences,” she said.

Agencies are struggling to analyze the possibilities of weather control and how it might be policed. In November, the Congressional Research Service advised lawmakers to pay attention to the issue, saying “these new technologies may become available to foreign governments and entities in the private sector to use unilaterally — without authorization from the United States government or an international treaty.” That already happened to a limited extent in mid-2012 when a California businessman, Russ George, dumped 200,000 pounds of iron-rich dust off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, in an effort — many say publicity stunt — aimed at spurring a massive plankton bloom. The theory of ocean fertilization holds that more plankton would increase the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. George’s test did appear to cause more plankton to bloom, but it is unclear whether it had any effect on carbon dioxide levels in the air.

That same year, British scientists canceled plans to test the effect that spraying liquids at high altitude would have on sunlight. The proposed small-scale test involved launching a balloon high above the sea and spraying what would have amounted to a couple of bathtubs of water into the atmosphere. In theory, that would mimic the cooling effect that occurs when ash from a volcanic eruption blocks sunlight. The experiment was grounded amid a heated dispute, which continues today, over whether field tests should be taking place at all in the absence of international rules guiding how to go about them. Some prominent climate experts have argued that the technology the British scientists were testing, were it ever to be used on a large scale, could exacerbate extreme drought and flooding in parts of the world. “We need to consider whether we have the right legal architecture in place to make sure bad things don’t happen,” said Harvard law professor Jody Freeman, a former White House counselor for energy and climate change. “It is important we have some control and society is engaged in the risks.”

The technologies being proposed are numerous, and often odd.

“I have seen all kinds of proposals,” said James Fleming, author of “Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control” and a member of the National Academy geo-engineering committee. “There is a crazy new one in my email every week,” he said. “There are a lot of Rube Goldbergs out there, and some Dr. Strangeloves.”  Of the technologies being considered, those that would remove carbon tend to be less controversial. Riley Duren, chief systems engineer for Earth science and technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, estimates, for example, that counteracting today’s emissions would require about 30,000 of what he calls reverse power plants: enormous steel structures developed by a start-up in Calgary, Canada, that would use fans to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The bids to redirect sunlight are much more economical and could be deployed more quickly. They also carry much more risk, the congressional research study warns. Proposals in that category include efforts at cloud whitening, in which planes or ships would shoot particles of sea salt into the sky, stimulating the formation of brighter clouds that would reflect sunlight. Other proposals would inject sulfates into the atmosphere to absorb heat, or bounce solar radiation back into space.

In addition to the danger of exacerbating drought, the congressional report warns, if such contraptions malfunctioned or were otherwise shut down, the climate could rapidly warm, “leaving little time for humans or nature to adapt.”

The authors echo the concerns of many scientists that small changes in climate over the history of Earth have been known to have severe consequences. Much of the momentum behind geo-engineering comes from an organization Gates created with Caldeira and Harvard professor David Keith. The two scientists have been getting $1.3 million annually from Gates to fund their research, as well as to distribute to other projects, such as the modeling being done at Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Caldeira said. They also hold cram sessions for the billionaire a few times each year on climate and energy issues, including geo-engineering. Caldeira and Keith hope the National Academy effort will open the way for government-sponsored field tests. But McNutt cautions that may not happen. John Latham won’t be staying idle waiting for the government to resolve that debate. A senior research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., Latham is confident that he and his partners have developed a viable contraption. Their cloud-brightening scheme would involve ships at sea unleashing a spray of salt particles. It would use nozzles designed by Armand Neukermans, a physicist who helped invent the inkjet printer while at Hewlett-Packard. As recently as last year, the group had little hope of securing enough money to test the contraption outside the lab, Latham said. But as the buzz around geo-engineering has intensified, some wealthy individuals have stepped forward with about $1 million needed for a small-scale trial. Latham anticipates that within two or three years he will be conducting a government-sanctioned field test over thousands of acres of ocean. “People are getting more and more desperate about climate change,” he said. “I think it is quite probable we will get the OK to do this.”

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Should We Turn Earth’s Radiation Into Energy?

Physicists May Have Found New Way To Turn Earth’s Radiation Into Energy

By: Hunter Stuart; The Huffington Post

Our planet is warm. Outer space is cold. Can we take that heat difference and turn it into electricity?

Physicists at Harvard University may have found a way to do just that. They’ve proposed in a new study how to harvest the Earth’s thermal infrared radiation, and convert it into direct-current (DC) power.

“It’s not at all obvious, at first, how you would generate DC power by emitting infrared light in free space toward the cold,” study co-author Dr. Federico Capasso, a professor of applied physics and senior research fellow in electrical engineering at the university, said in a written statement. “To generate power by emitting, not by absorbing light, that’s weird. It makes sense physically once you think about it, but it’s highly counterintuitive. We’re talking about the use of physics at the nanoscale for a completely new application.”

One method in the study involves putting a hot plate (at the temperature of the Earth) beneath a cooler plate made from emissive material that gets colder by radiating heat toward the sky. The researchers said, based on a separate study they did on infrared emissions, that during the day or night such a contraption could produce a few watts of electricity for every square meter of the device, depending on the size of the plates.

That approach is “fairly intuitive,” study co-author Steven J. Byrnes, a postdoc researcher at Harvard, said in the statement. But a second proposed method is a little more complex.

It involves making many tiny electric circuits that would have two parts: “resistors” (or antennas) that emit the Earth’s infrared radiation, and mini electronic components called “diodes” that conduct a resistor’s electric current in a single direction. Keeping the diode warmer than the resistor will create voltage, the researchers said, and by covering a flat device with thousands or perhaps millions of these circuits and pointing it at the sky, you could get a significant amount of electricity using the Earth’s radiation as its source.

But there are still complications to figure out, the researchers said, one of which is that it’s hard to build and manipulate a diode with the low voltage levels created by the infrared emissions. A possible solution may lie in the manufacture of molecular-sized devices.

“People have been working on infrared diodes for at least 50 years without much progress,” Byrnes said. “But recent advances such as nanofabrication are essential to making them better, more scalable, and more reproducible.”

This new research was published this week in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences.

Article Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/physicists-may-have-found_radiation-energy-harvard-university_n_4904971.html

New Plasma Device for Energy

New Plasma Device Considered Holy Grail of Energy Generation and Storage

Scientists at the University of Missouri have devised a new way to create and control plasma that could transform American energy generation and storage.

Randy Curry, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering, and his team developed a device that launches a ring of plasma at distances of up to two feet. Although the plasma reaches a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun, it doesn’t emit radiation and is completely safe in proximity to humans.

lightningWhile most of us are familiar with three states of matter – liquid, gas and solid – there is also a fourth state known as plasma, which includes things such as fire and lightning. Life on Earth depends on the energy emitted by plasma produced during fusion reactions within the sun.

The secret to Curry’s success was developing a way to make plasma form its own self-magnetic field, which holds it together as it travels through the air.

“Launching plasma in open air is the ‘Holy Grail’ in the field of physics,” said Curry.

“Creating plasma in a vacuum tube surrounded by powerful electromagnets is no big deal; dozens of labs can do that. Our innovation allows the plasma to hold itself together while it travels through regular air without any need for containment.

The plasma device could also be enlarged to handle much larger amounts of energy,” he said.

For the current work, Curry and his team used older technologies to build their prototype of a plasma-generating machine. But a considerably smaller device using newer, miniaturized parts could also be built within three to five years with sufficient funding, Curry said.

“We have a world-class team at MU’s Center for Physical & Power Electronics, but that team will evaporate without funding.”

Author:  Posted May 22, 2013 by RLM Press in Neo-Science

Source: Red Orbit