Wednesday November 13, 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)

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Scientists: Nations Need Stronger Pledges to Curb Climate Change

Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments

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Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A woman wearing a mask walks past buildings on a polluted day in Handan, Hebei province, China, Jan. 12, 2019. China is reportedly the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. VOA

The vast majority of national commitments in the 2015 Paris Agreement are inadequate to prevent the worst effects of global warming, scientists said on Tuesday, naming the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting countries as among those that must ratchet up their efforts.

“Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments” in next month’s United Nation’s climate summit in Spain, said Robert Watson, lead author of the report by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund.

The report ranked nearly 75%, or 136, of the pledges as insufficient, including ones by major carbon emitters China, the United States, and India. A dozen, by countries including Australia, Japan and Brazil, were judged only partially sufficient.

Countries at next month’s summit in Madrid will hash out some details of the international pact to curb warming. Chile withdrew as host following weeks of riots protesting inequality.

Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A protestor holds a placard in front of the India Gate during a protest demanding government to take immediate steps to control air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 5, 2019. VOA

Of the 184 pledges countries made under the climate agreement, only 36 are ambitious enough to help reach the agreement’s goal of keeping global warming less than 1.5 Celsius (2.7 F) above pre-industrial levels, the report said.

Most of those 36 are by countries in the European Union.

Watson, a former chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the report could be read two ways: “You can read ‘My God it’s hopeless’, or ‘My God this is a wake up call.'”

Watson estimated that even if all nations meet their existing pledges, the world would be headed for temperature rise of between 3 and 3.5 degrees Celsius, which could lead to more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species.

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The report rated the European Union’s 28 member states as having sufficient pledges because they aim to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 40% below the 1990 level by 2030.

It ranked the United States as insufficient because President Donald Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s climate policies and yanked Washington out of the pact. The administration, which argues that Paris Agreement would cost U.S. taxpayers too much money, filed official paperwork on Monday to withdraw.

China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, also came in as insufficient because their pledges focus on carbon intensity targets, which lower emissions per unit of gross domestic product, or GDP. Because those economies are growing and coal produces much of their electricity, total emissions have risen sharply even though carbon intensity levels in China and India have fallen. (VOA)