Low-cost water purifiers use chip packets to kill off dangerous bacteria

Armed with plywood, a glass tube and some empty chip packets, mechanical engineering students from the University of Adelaide have developed a low-cost water purification system capable of killing off harmful bacteria. The solution is designed for remote communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG), an area where water is particularly susceptible to pathogen infestation.

chip_packet_water_purifier-4The water treatment system was developed in collaboration with ChildFund Australia, an organization dedicated to promoting children’s rights across the globe. One of the team’s main design focuses was to provide a solution that could easily be adapted by local communities in PNG. As such, it was critical that the materials were both cheap, light and accessible. Read more

New type of rechargeable battery – just add water

Scientists at Stanford have developed a battery that uses nanotechnology to create electricity from the difference in salt content between fresh water and sea water. The researchers hope to use the technology to create power plants where fresh-water rivers flow into the ocean. The new “mixing entropy” battery alternately immerses its electrodes in river water and sea water to produce the electrical power.

mixing-entropy-battery-2Making electricity from the difference in salinity (the amount of salt) in fresh water and sea water is not a new concept. We’ve previously covered salinity power technology, and Norway’s Statkraft has built a working prototype power plant. But the Stanford team, led by associate professor of materials science and engineering Yi Cui, believes their method is more efficient, and can be built more cheaply. Read more

FATS bulletproof life vest self-inflates when it hits the water

Bulletproof vests are great if you happen to get shot, but what happens if you get shot on a boat and fall overboard or have to dive into choppy waters to escape a fire? Well, hopefully you’re wearing the Flotation Armor Torso System (FATS) from BCB International. Not only does this vest protect you from bullets, it self-inflates to serve as a life vest.

00BCB International offers a wide range of tactical, survival and outdoor products for everyone from soldiers to everyday adventurers. Its products run the gamut from fire starters to blast-proof underwear.

The newly updated FATS vest isn’t the first inflatable bulletproof vest on the market, but it offers a clean, multipurpose design that protects both the wearer and self-inflating lifesaver with NIJ 0101.06 IIIA-standard armor. It includes front and rear MOLLE attachments and enough buoyancy to float the person wearing the vest and all their equipment. Read more

New research pours cold water on alien civilization theory

New research is refuting the theory that the star known as KIC 8462852 is being stripped of its resources by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, as had previously been suggested. The star rose to prominence last year after a series of irregular, seemingly artificial fluctuations were detected in its light signature in observations made by the Kepler space telescope.

alien-megastructures-1It was asserted that these occultations were theoretically in line with the pattern of dimming that could be expected from a Dyson sphere. A Dyson sphere is in effect a colossal artificial construct that would encircle or even entirely encompass a star.

The claims garnered so much media attention that the SETI Institute trained its powerful Allen Telescope Array on KIC 8462852 in an attempt to listen in for any potentially alien signals. Unfortunately, and much to the disappointment of those looking for signs we aren’t alone in the universe, the search came up empty. Read more

New material switches from water-repelling to water-loving with electric current

Generally, water repellent objects and those that attract or absorb water have very different microscopic-level attributes that endow them with their behavior. For example, the myriad tiny hairs on a gecko’s body help it to efficiently repel water, whilst specially treated cotton designed for harvesting water from the air contains millions of tiny pores that draw in liquid. Now researchers have discovered a way to use a single type of material to perform both functions, switching between liquid attraction and liquid repulsion, simply through the application of an electric voltage.

waterproof-electric-switching-material-1Developed by a team of scientists from TU Wien, the University of Zurich, and KU Levin, the new material alters its water-handling behavior by changing its surface structure at the nanoscale to effect a change at the macroscale. Specifically, the behavior of liquid on the new material is as a result of altering the “stiction” (static friction) of the molecular surface. One with a high-level of stiction keeps moisture clinging to it, whilst one with a low-level allows the liquid to run right off. Read more