Sunday December 16, 2018

People living in arid, Drought-ridden areas may soon be able to get Water straight from Air: Scientists

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FILE - A glass is filled in with drinking water in Paris, April 27, 2014. Scientists have developed a box that can convert low-humidity air into water. VOA
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People living in arid, drought-ridden areas may soon be able to get water straight from a source that’s all around them — the air, American researchers said Thursday.

Scientists have developed a box that can convert low-humidity air into water, producing several liters every 12 hours, they wrote in the journal Science.

“It takes water from the air and it captures it,” said Evelyn Wang, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-author of the paper.

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The technology could be “really great for remote areas where there’s really limited infrastructure,” she said.

The system, which is currently in the prototype phase, uses a material that resembles powdery sand to trap air in its tiny pores. When heated by the sun or another source, water molecules in the trapped air are released and condensed — essentially “pulling” the water out of the air, the scientists said.

A recent test on a roof at MIT confirmed that the system can produce about a glass of water every hour in 20 to 30 percent humidity.

Companies like Water-Gen and EcoloBlue already produce atmospheric water-generation units that create water from air.

What is special about this new prototype, though, is that it can cultivate water in low-humidity environments using no energy, Wang said.

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“It doesn’t have to be this complicated system that requires some kind refrigeration cycle,” she said in an interview with Reuters.

An estimated one-third of the world’s population lives in areas with low relative humidity, the scientists said. Areas going through droughts often experience dry air, but Wang said the new product could help them still get access to water.

“Now we can get to regions that really are pretty dry, arid regions,” she said. “We can provide them with a device, and they can use it pretty simply.”

The technology opens the door for what co-author Omar Yaghi called “personalized water.”

Yaghi, a chemistry professor at University of California, Berkeley, envisions a future where the water is produced off-grid for individual homes and possibly farms using the device.

“This application extends beyond drinking water and household purposes, off grid,” he said. “It opens the way for use of [the technology] to water large regions as in agriculture.”

In the next few years, Wang said, the developers hope to find a way to reproduce the devices on a large scale and eventually create a formal product. The resulting device, she believes, will be relatively affordable and accessible. (VOA)

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Old Dusty Kilogram Swapped for Something More Stable: Scientists

It has taken years of work to fine-tune the new definition to ensure the switchover will be smooth.

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Kilogram
The International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK) is pictured in Paris, France, in this undated photo obtained from social media. VOA

After years of nursing a sometimes dusty cylinder of metal in a vault outside Paris as the global reference for modern mass, scientists are updating the definition of the kilogram.

Just as the redefinition of the second in 1967 helped to ease communication across the world via technologies like GPS and the internet, experts say the change in the kilogram will be better for technology, retail and health — though it probably won’t change the price of fish much.

The kilogram has been defined since 1889 by a shiny piece of platinum-iridium held in Paris. All modern mass measurements are traceable back to it — from micrograms of pharmaceutical medicines to kilos of apples and pears and tons of steel or cement.

kilogram, weight
Border Security Force officials showing 17 kilogram heroine.

The problem is, the “international prototype kilogram” doesn’t always weigh the same. Even inside its three glass bell jars, it gets dusty and dirty, and is affected by the atmosphere. Sometimes, it really needs a wash.

“We live in a modern world. There are pollutants in the atmosphere that can stick to the mass,” said Ian Robinson, a specialist in the engineering, materials and electrical science department at Britain’s National Physical Laboratory.

“So when you just get it out of the vault, it’s slightly dirty. But the whole process of cleaning or handling or using the mass can change its mass. So it’s not the best way, perhaps, of defining mass.”

What’s needed is something more constant.

kilogram, weight
The Kilogram. Flickr

So, at the end of a week-long meeting in the Palace of Versailles, Paris, the world’s leading measurement aficionados at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures will vote Friday to make an “electronic kilogram” the new baseline measure of mass.

Just as the meter — once the length of a bar of platinum-iridium, also kept in Paris — is now defined by the constant speed of light in a vacuum, so a kilogram will be defined by a tiny but immutable fundamental value called the “Planck constant.”

The new definition involves an apparatus called the Kibble balance, which makes use of the constant to measure the mass of an object using a precisely measured electromagnetic force.

Paris,diesel,kilogram, weight
The kilogram has been defined since 1889 by a shiny piece of platinum-iridium held in Paris.VOA

“In the present system, you have to relate small masses to large masses by subdivision. That’s very difficult — and the uncertainties build up very, very quickly,” Robinson said.

“One of the things this [new] technique allows us to do is to actually measure mass directly at whatever scale we like, and that’s a big step forward.”

Also Read: NASA to Send Organ-on-Chips to Test Human Tissue Health in Space

He said it had taken years of work to fine-tune the new definition to ensure the switchover will be smooth.

But while the extra accuracy will be a boon to scientists, Robinson said that, for the average consumer buying flour or bananas, “there will be absolutely no change whatsoever.” (VOA)