This series is part of a long tradition of something created by Adam Machanic and the torch has been passed on to Steve Jones. Thank you Adam and Steve!
And this month’s T-SQL #126 topic is being hosted by Glenn Berry. Thanks Glenn!
“Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write about what you have been doing as a response to COVID-19. Maybe you have joined the SQLFamily FAH team. Perhaps you have been printing “ear savers” using 3D-printers like Tim Radney. Perhaps you have been donating food or doing some other sort of volunteer work. Whatever you have been doing, now is your chance to talk about it and publicize it!”
How many times a day do YOU wash your hands with soap and water?
What if you were born and lived in a poor area where water was a precious, dreamed of commodity? In a survival situation of life and death, one can survive ~45 days or longer without food but only 72-120 hours without water.
Then you are told there is this invisible killer, spreading quickly like dust in the wind, affecting everyone in its path and killing anyone who can’t fight it?
Washing your hands SEVERAL TIMES A DAY with soap and water is your primary defense to save your life and the lives of those around you. And suddenly wearing any kind of mask or facial covering and maintaining a physical distance from everyone, including your family members becomes crucial.
But you don’t have any spare soap or water to wash your hands.
People struggle to find safe, clean, drinking and cooking water every day.
There is a report of a potential dramatic increase in starvation of biblical proportions about to hit the impoverished. There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself. Why? Because they were already marginalized before the pandemic hit and now they cannot afford or have easy access to water and food.
Get clean water to those in need who are forced to live off-the-grid.
I am a fan of Dune. I am fascinated by the concept of stillsuits and windtraps to capture and condense water vapor into liquid water. And I love The Science of Dune too.
Enter Stage Left – Blue Gold – Water
I have to limit this blog post to one area for the sake of brevity so I’m choosing to focus on water and my thoughts over the last few months. Gold is a valuable element and now we are presented with a take on that concept, blue gold – water.
Both the book and movie Blue Gold:World Water Wars; NEVER mentions atmospheric water generators (AWG) which I’ll get to in a moment. I find that blatant omission odd and conspicuous by its absence. Friendly heads-up: note the book and movie have an extreme pro-activist slant. I like the idea of water as blue gold so I’m sticking with that label.
In Colorado, I see these water exchanges at Wal-Mart and hardware stores. Primo runs about $7 for a 5 gallon container of water.
Food for the Hungry has already had programs in place to concentrate on clean drinking water for the poor and WASH.
But now with COVID-19, the need for access to clean water for drinking, cooking, sanitation but now especially for washing hands, has taken on an epic emphasis literally overnight. Crops and livestock are suddenly taking a backseat to preserving human life. And as mentioned above, it will send many into further desperation and suffering. In many countries, farmers’ markets are a great way to support local farmed and harvested crops and livestock. But when those are shutdown in poor countries due to the pandemic, there are no other places to sell your crops and livestock!
I began thinking about freezing and storing water during the winter months for later use. Here in Colorado in the winter, we experience freezing temperatures at night (and during the day) for several months.
More about the blue gold mining techniques in a moment.
Enter Stage Left – White Gold – Ice
One technique is to essentially use off-peak electricity rates to make ice which is then used to augment air conditioning.
Commercial unit: CALMAC icebank. I contacted them a while back and these things run about $15k for the smallest unit.
Ice Bear tried to do residential units but alas, they went bankrupt.
Problem? These things are expensive.
My idea? Use nature’s free cooling during winter and windmills (not wind turbines) to power air handlers to move freezing air over ice making equipment. Store it in an icehouse and then use that ice to condense water in a passive AWG once the dew point is above freezing and only when the humidity is at its highest for that day, usually just before sunrise.
What is the Dew Point?
Dew point and psychrometric chart. So if one can exploit the dew point, one can make water from air. But it is not easy…
1.21 Gigawatts??? 75,000 Drops In A Gallon???
Squeezing a usable quantity of water from air requires a heart-to-heart realization of how hard this is.
1 cu meter or yard of air contains anywhere from 2 to 5 drops. One needs 75k/drops to make ~4 liters or 1 gallon.
Imagine going for a walk. You are holding a large box in front of you. With every step, you fill the box with air. It would take roughly 15,000 steps to move that much air through a system to get to 75k drops. And that is provided one can squeeze ALL of the 2-5 drops out and not have any left!
Enter Stage Left: Todd’s Active AWG
I’ll admit this idea is expensive but it would last for many years if not generations with proper care and maintenance.
Put solar-powered AWG on top of a flat top water tower. Also, I wanted to create a massive solar still ON TOP of the water tower for harvesting and purifying rainwater too. It is called a water pyramid. (PDF). Put the solar AWG inside the water pyramid too. And to purify the distilled water from the solar still further by running it through a biosand filter and ideally zapping it with some ultraviolet light as a last step.
Enter Stage Left: Solar Ice
What? How is it possible to use heat to make ice? Truth is stranger than physics. My vision would be to 3D print these machines to dramatically lower the cost. These ice blocks too could then be stored in an icehouse to support an ice trade. The ice can also be used as a passive AWG by placing it on top of several upside-down CPU coolers. Water will condense on the coolers.
Enter Stage Left: Todd’s Solid State Passive AWG
I want to open-source this idea so I can’t get into details at this time. However, I will tell you this: it uses technology over 100 years old. It really does have ZERO moving parts. It uses renewable energy but not like you might think- no wind turbines or solar cells. It does make ice and a lot of it.
Last but not least, I came up with what I’m calling an Amish freeze dryer. Yes, you heard that right: a zero electric freeze dryer which uses the invention above.
So when people talk about creating water from air, creating ice, freeze drying excess food like milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and what they did to help other people during the pandemic, I polished up some old ideas and created some new ones. Someday I hope to build all of these inventions and help and show others in extreme poverty how to do the same.
Millions of people around the world do NOT have easy access to safe and clean drinking water to use. AWG(s) and ice can be used to create water where it is needed.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post. My passion for affordable, scalable, sustainable, and appropriate technology to address food, water, clothing and shelter is something I hope to continue dreaming, inventing, and writing about.