Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Environment

Scientists Announce New Method to Pull Potable Water From Tank Exhaust

80beatsBy Patrick MorganApril 20, 2011 5:24 PM
waterdrop

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

What’s the News: Scientists have developed a new process that condenses diesel fuel exhaust into water. If implemented on the battlefield, it would allow soldiers to produce drinkable water from burnt fuel in tanks, generators, and Humvees, freeing them from carrying quite so many heavy water-filled containers. “Theoretically, one gallon of diesel should produce one gallon of water,” project leader Melanie Debusk told MSNBC.

How the Heck:

  • The new process involved is called capillary condensation, and as Debusk told MSNBC, the set-up resembles a “hollow … tube with porous walls.”

  • As the exhaust funnels through an array of porous ceramic tubes, the microscopic pores on the side of the tube condense the water via capillary action.

  • As liquid water is extracted from outside the tube, it frees up room for the pores to fill up again, allowing a person to continue producing water.

What’s the Context:

  • The military has experimented with producing water from exhaust before, but they only tried thermodynamic condensation, wherein you have to cool the exhaust in order to condense it. They ditched this method because the equipment required to cool the exhaust was too bulky and heavy, defeating the purpose of finding a lighter alternative to lugging water.

  • Since the capillaries separate the water from water-soluble gases, the process results in water that’s pure enough that upwards of 85% of it is potable, say the researchers.

  • On average, a U.S. soldier requires seven gallons of water a day. A single Humvee’s 25-gallon gas tank could potentially provide “enough water for about three soldiers per tank of fuel burned.”

The Future Holds: If Debusk’s lab gets a $6 million budget, she says she’d like to develop the system to its full capacity in the “next few years.”

Image: flickr / Nikhil Verma

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In