Tuesday June 25, 2019

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

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)

Next Story

Scientists Take Peek Behind Those Sad Puppy Dog Eyes and Find a Unique Muscle

Pooches use the muscle to raise their eyebrows and make the babylike expression

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Scientists, Sad, Puppy
FILE - Lexy, a therapy dog, is seen at Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 18, 2014. A study released June 17, 2019, suggests that over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred dogs that could pull off the "puppy dog" eyes look. VOA

What’s behind those hard-to-resist puppy dog eyes?

New research suggests that over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred pups that could pull off that appealing, sad look. And that encouraged the development of the facial muscle that creates it.

Today, pooches use the muscle to raise their eyebrows and make the babylike expression. That muscle is virtually absent in their ancestors, the wolves.

“You don’t typically see such muscle differences in species that are that closely related,” said Anne Burrows of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, an author of the study released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists, Sad, Puppy
FILE – A female red wolf emerges from her den sheltering newborn pups at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C., May 13, 2019. VOA

Dogs differ from wolves in many ways, from having shorter snouts, smaller sizes and more expressive faces. And unlike wolves, dogs heavily rely on human eye contact, whether to know when someone’s talking to them or when they can’t solve a problem, like hopping a fence or getting out the door.

Burrows and her colleagues examined the eye muscles in the cadavers of six dogs and two wolves. They found dogs have a meaty eye muscle to lift their eyebrows and make puppy dog eyes. But in wolves, the same muscle was stringy or missing.

The scientists also recorded 27 dogs and nine wolves as each stared at a person. Pet pooches frequently and intensely pulled back their eyebrows to make sad expressions, while the wolves rarely made these faces, and never with great intensity.

The researchers believe dogs, over their relatively short 33,000 years of domestication, used this eye muscle to communicate, possibly goading people to feed or care for them — or at least take them out to play. And people, perhaps unwittingly, obliged.

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‘Profound’ implications

Dog experts not involved with the study were impressed.

“The implications are quite profound,” said Brian Hare from Duke University, who edited the article. Hare wrote in an email that these muscles almost certainly developed because they gave dogs an advantage when interacting with people, and people have been unaware of it.

“The proof has been in their puppy dog eyes all this time!” he said.

Scientists, Sad, Puppy
Over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred pups that could pull off that appealing, sad look. Pixabay

Evan MacLean at the University of Arizona called the findings fascinating, but cautioned that the muscle difference could be an indirect effect of other changes rather than a specific response to human influence.

Clive Wynne of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University said: “Kudos to the researchers for thinking of a cool way to investigate an important aspect of dogs’ success” with humans.

But he noted in an email that the study has a few snags, particularly the small sampling — only five dog breeds were examined and videos were mainly of Staffordshire bull terriers — and the lack of background information about each animal.

“Did these wolves regularly meet people bearing gifts that might be worth asking for with an endearing face?” he asked.

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Burrows said she planned follow-up studies to examine more breeds. (VOA)