Desolenator churns out clean drinking water using solar power

Desalination may one day prove the savior for regions of the world where clean drinking water is scarce, but current technology dictates that this process is often expensive and energy-intensive. The team behind the Desolenator has high hopes of delivering water security to those in need, with a mobile desalinator that runs purely on energy from the sun.


The Desolenator produces clean drinking water using sunlight

At a time when the planet’s population is set to grow substantially and rising global temperatures are adding further uncertainty to the supply of fresh water, considerable effort is going into advancing desalination technology and making it cheaper and more accessible.

In 2010, IBM commenced work on a solar-powered desalination plant to bring fresh water to the Saudi desert, while later in that same year MIT revealed designs for a portable system powered by photovoltaic panels. Only yesterday we wrote about the Odyssée desalinator, an all-in-one system that uses wave-power to produce clean drinking water on the spot. Read more

Warka Water promises to harness safe drinking water from the air

As water shortage is a serious issue in many parts of the world, a means of efficiently harnessing safe drinking water from thin air without the need of expensive infrastructure could be a real lifesaver. Italy’s Architecture and Vision is developing an off-grid bamboo tower called Warka Water that promises just that: the firm says it could collect an annual average of up to 100 liters (26.4 US gallons) of water per day.


Once completed, Warka Water will rise to a height of 10 m (33 ft), weigh 60 kg (132 lb), and be secured to the ground with eight guide ropes. The tower consists of a lightweight woven bamboo structure, while an inner plastic mesh retains water droplets from passing fog, which fall into a collector and a large tank. Any rainwater and overnight dew also collects in the tank. Read more

Woody shrubs don’t slurp up water

Clearing encroaching plants from savannah might make drought worse.


Trees and shrubs may help to keep water flowing in arid areas. The degraded area on the left of this picture could struggle to hold water in the same way. Charles Taylor

Most Texans know that ranchers don’t like shrubs. That’s because of an assumption that when woody plants move into an area, they greedily horde water and drain nearby rivers. That assumption is the driving force behind efforts from Texas to South Africa to clear shrubs from drought-prone land.

However, there is one problem — according to a study by researchers at Texas A&M University in College Station, that assumption may not be true. Hydrologist Bradford Wilcox and his colleague Yun Huang examined water levels going back to 1925 for four of Texas’s biggest rivers near the parched Edwards Plateau in the west of the state. What they found shocked them.

“Rivers on the Edwards Plateau not only are not disappearing, but they are increasing in flow,” says Wilcox, who is first author on the study, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters1. “By a lot. I mean, it’s doubled. That’s really big.” Read more

Insect-inspired amphibious robot jumps like a water strider

Despite what our science fiction-fueled imaginations love to be entertained with, there is more to the field of modern robotics than colossal combat machines or bionic baristas. Some projects may seem mundane by comparison, yet the results are no less impressive, especially the ones that enlighten through the process. Although it took a few trial and error attempts, scientists have finally created an insect-inspired robot that can jump off of water’s surface.


Scientists at Seoul National University examine their robot’s extreme form of locomotion

Scientists from Seoul National University (SNU) and Harvard University have been studying how water strider insects are able jump off of water or ground with the same power and height. This is not the first time that researchers have looked to and emulated nature with robotics. We have complex quadrupeds that can run and jump over obstacles like an animal as well as insect-inspired robots that can move easily through fields of debris. Read more

Miniature car runs only on the power of evaporating water

Researchers have discovered an unlikely source of renewable energy, the naturally-occurring cycle that is water evaporation. Scientists at New York’s Columbia University replicated this process in the laboratory and harnessed its energy to power tiny machines, one of which was a moving, miniature car. The team says the technology could potentially to be scaled up to one day draw power from huge resting bodies of water such as bays and reservoirs.


Its size and top speed is unlikely to land it a role in the next Fast and the Furious, but a car powered by water evaporation is a promising development

The research stems from work carried out last year by Ozgur Sahin, associate professor of biological sciences and physics at Columbia University. Sahin had discovered that when bacterial spores shrink and swell as a result of changes in humidity, that motion could be used to move other objects. He drew inspiration from his finding that, pound for pound, these spores actually pack more energy than some materials already used for moving objects in engineering. Read more