Breakthrough Solar Device Turns Saltwater Into Fresh Drinking Water

Here in California we’re entering our fourth consecuitive drought year. The snowpack in the Sierras was a dismal 2% of where it should have been last time I checked, and the swimming holes in my favorite spot, the Yuba River, will most likely be puddles. With so much of our drinking water coming from natural springs and relying on the snowmelt each winter to replenish reservoirs, we need to find alternative ways to get these resources.

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image: MIT

One promising technology comes in the form of desalination. Several large facilities exist in CA and elsewhere around the world, but they’re incredibly expensive and not all that efficient. What about your everyday civilian who wants to do the same? Options are limited thus far, but this solar powered device engineered by some brilliant minds at MIT just won the 2015 Desal Prize, a competition ran by USAID that aims to bring water solutions to developing countries. Desalination is especially important for these areas, as indicated here

It works by using solar panels to capture energy that’s stored in a bank of batteries that power an electrodialysis machine which removes salt from water.

For those of us who aren’t electrodialysis experts:

“Electrodialysis works by passing a stream of water between two electrodes with opposite charges. Because the salt dissolved in water consists of positive and negative ions, the electrodes pull the ions out of the water, Winter says, leaving fresher water at the centre of the flow. A series of membranes separate the freshwater stream from increasingly salty ones.”

Audi Turns Water Into Diesel

In a move taken straight from the Jesus miracle playbook, Audi has successfully converted water and carbon dioxide into an ethanol diesel fuel they call “e-liquid”. The breakthrough isn’t actually a new process, and the German automaker uses the Fischer-Tropsch process which has been known by scientists since the 1920s, but the context of this announcement makes for exciting news in today’s modern world where there’s a huge demand for clean, renewable fuel sources.

The breakthrough comes on the heels of a commissioning phase that lasted just four months. Audi teamed up with clean tech company Sunfire to develop the fuel in a Dresden facility. To demonstrate its suitability for everyday use, Federal Minister of Education and Research Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka put the first five liters into her official car, an Audi A8 3.0 TDI clean diesel quattro.

The breakthrough signals a big step toward developing cost-effective renewable fuel, and the announcement added they achieved a 70% efficiency in the process, a figure that’s surprisingly high. No word yet on what the next step will be, but we hope they can bring this to market at a fair price per gallon.

Japan Unveils The World’s Largest Floating Solar Farms

Japan recently unveiled its most ambitious solar energy project consisting of two massive floating solar “farms” in Kato City, Hyogo Prefecture. The completed project came about from a partnership between Kyocer and Century Tokyo Leasing and was finished in record time, having begun only last September.

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The farm is split between two locations, one on Nichihira Pond and another on Higashihira Pond. It consists of 225-watt Kyocera modules, and includes 11,256 total panels with a capacity of 1.7MW and 1.2MW respectively. The power generated from this project will supply enough energy to keep 920 homes lit.

The project represents an ambitious new step in Japan’s solar energy infrastructure, which has doubled since 2011, the same year as the Fukushima reactor disaster, putting them in a position alongside China and the U.S. as a leading contender in the renewable energy sector.

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In case you’re wondering what the advantage is of building the system on a floating surface instead of on land, it has to do with the cooling effect of water, which results in more energy generated. Additionally, the extra shading of the water helps promote algae growth and prevents water evaporation.