Space station residents could soon get a new choice for drinking water beyond urine, sweat, and vapor. A water generation system which can extract water from hydrogen and carbon dioxide waste products has reached the space station, according to Aviation Week.
The Sabatier Reactor System could create as much as 2,000 pounds of water per year when it officially goes online in several months. It uses the chemical process discovered by French Nobel laureate and chemist Paul Sabatier, who found that elevated temperatures and pressures could turn hydrogen and carbon dioxide into methane and water.
Making U.S. Navy carrier groups and Army bases more self-sufficient and energy-efficient could mean turning to mobile nuclear reactors. The Pentagon's DARPA scientists have put forth the modest proposal of deploying miniature reactors to convert hydrogen and carbon into military jet fuel, as well as providing power, The Register reports.
With the conference in Copenhagen swiftly approaching, and the Senate analog to the Waxman-Markey "American Clean Energy and Security Act" struggling towards the floor, little doubt remains that fossil fuel-burning power plants will soon face either fines for, or mandatory reduction of, carbon emissions. Luckily, a team at MIT has devised a power plant set up that generates power from fossil fuels, but does so with almost none of the carbon emissions.
Talk about a Eureka moment. Scientists at Sandia National Labs, seeking a means to create cheap and abundant hydrogen to power a hydrogen economy, realized they could use the same technology to "reverse-combust" CO2 back into fuel. Researchers still have to improve the efficiency of the system, but they recently demonstrated a working prototype of their "Sunshine to Petrol" machine that converts waste CO2 to carbon monoxide, and then syngas, consuming nothing but solar energy.
Spacecraft headed to Mars or beyond may harness a new source of propulsion that could refuel almost anywhere in the solar system. Last week, the VASIMR prototype plasma rocket achieved 200 kilowatts of power, the milestone the team was striving for. Now they are beginning development of a flight-capable version, slated for launch in 2013.
Spacecraft might one day refuel on the moon or Mars using plain old ice. A small rocket flew earlier this month on an environmentally-friendly propellant consisting of aluminum powder and water ice.
The "ALICE" fuel mixture being developed by Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University could someday replace liquid or solid rocket propellants, and possibly enable higher performance as well. The implications for space exploration could also mean accessible fuel reserves at future lunar or Martian outposts, which naturally attract the interest of NASA and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
A team of gearheads at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed an engine that can handle a blend of gasoline and diesel fuel. It outputs low emissions, and offers up to 20 percent greater fuel efficiency.
Going green makes military sense to the U.S. Army. Self-sufficient vehicles and base camps require fewer supply convoy runs that stretch logistics lines thin across hostile territory. The Army's new "zero-footprint" concept for a camp includes a package of very cool technologies.
Soldiers could eventually obtain their drinking water from vehicle exhaust, based on water-purification technologies being developed by the U.S. Army's TARDEC and DARPA labs. Garbage and waste produced by camps could also become new sources of energy.
Two cigarette lighters with clear plastic fuel reservoirs are new to the market. Each sells for about $5. At left is the Ritepoint Liter, made by the Ritepoint Co., St. Louis, Mo. It is available in four different colors. The fuel supply is transferred to the wick as needed by a finger-touch valve.