Water, water everywhere, but in the developing world or in areas ravaged by natural disasters – like the ongoing flooding in Pakistan, for instance – there’s often not a clean, purified drop to be found.
Algal blooms that feed on nutrient-rich manure and fertilizer runoff can deplete oxygen in the water when they die, creating inhospitable dead zones -- but the same green scum might also serve as a preventive solution upstream. A microbiologist with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service used algae to recover almost 100 percent of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from manure, and suggested that the dried-out algae can then act as slow-release fertilizer for farms.
High costs, in money and energy, limit the usefulness of desalination as a way to provide drinkable water in disaster areas. However, a new method could lead to portable desalination devices simple enough to run off solar power or a battery, but powerful enough to supply a family, or even a small village, with clean water. Additionally, the new desalination device also cleanses water of biological contaminants.
Bacteria have deployed to Afghanistan to help the U.S. Army clean polluted wastewater. The microbes commonly appear in handfuls of dirt, but now form the main component of two new bioreactors made by scientists at Sam Houston State University in Texas.
The World Health Organization estimates that around one sixth of the world lacks access to clean drinking water. Since those billion people are also the poorest people in the world, water purification techniques need to be cheap to help those most in need. Since it activates under plain visible light, this new water-purifying photocatalyst may help bring purer water to the world's neediest people.
Oh, Japan, you never cease to amaze. From the country that brought you water powered jetpacks, robots that make dinner and tentacles that do...other things, comes a floating UFO that will dutifully clean Osaka's public waterways.
By Suzanne LaBarre
Posted 08.03.2009 at 10:59 am 21 Comments
Swine flu, nuclear tests, global warming—signs of impending doom abound. Should the unthinkable happen, the smart survivalist has two options: flee the planet or, for those of us who aren’t Richard Branson, stock up on gear that will meet your basic needs during Armageddon. If the world doesn’t end, you can always take your new gadgets camping.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.