We should be paying closer attention to California-based QuantumSphere and its approach to the future of energy.
QuantumSphere understands the disruptive potential in performance of materials when you design catalysts at the nanoscale.
The company is designing systems that change how we look at energy storage (e.g. batteries/fuel cells) and energy intensive processes like desalination.
Next Step - Water Desalination QuantumSphere has made headlines for its nano-structured catalysts used in lithium ion batteries, and also for its low cost hydrogen electrolysis process.
Now QuantumSphere has announced a filed patent for a more energy efficient method of desalination that uses organic solutions to separate water from salt water or polluted water. The 'forward osmosis' process is less energy intensive than current commercial methods.
Water molecules are central to most energy systems on this planet. Yet when we direct them through tiny nanotubes (a billionth of a meter in diameter) strange things happen to their behavior that might someday have implications for designing new energy systems.
One area deals with the energy intensity of water purification and desalination. Forward looking scientists are turning towards nanoscale engineering to change the cost and energy equation of future water systems.
Last month Indian researchers developed models that applied carbon nanotubes in filtering ‘viruses, bacteria, toxic metal ions, and large noxious organic molecules’. While there is some healthy skepticism over the real world application of nanotubes in water filtration, there is still much that we still do not know about the wide ranging implications of water molecules passing through nanotubes.
Now researchers at the University of North Carolina believe they have found new behavior of water molecules confined to passing through hallow carbon nanotubes made from rolled up graphene or single layer sheets of carbon molecules. One of the key factors of behavior is temperature.
“Normally, graphene is hydrophobic, or ‘water hating’ – it repels water in the same way that drops of dew will roll off a lotus leaf,” said Yue Wu, Ph.D. “But we found that in the extremely limited space inside these tubes, the structure of water changes, and that it’s possible to change the relationship between the graphene and the liquid to hydrophilic or ‘water-liking’.”
This new research area of nano-confined water science could have implications for lower cost water purification and desalination techniques using carbon nanotubes. It might also lead to a better understanding of water molecule behavior inside naturally occurring biological building blocks like proteins which perform key energy conversions.
The Yue Wu Team’s findings were published in the Oct. 3, 2008, issue of the journal Science
Decades ago IBM earned the nickname 'Big Blue' for the color of its corporate logo and mainframes (*), but maybe it was really a sneak peak at its role in digitizing Planet Earth?
There is tremendous growth ahead around 'instrumenting' ecosystems and built environments with sensors, and creating the software systems to make sense of what's actually happening on the planet.
How long before the mainstream world catches onto the idea of a 'Digital Gaia'? How long before companies like IBM, Cisco, Johnson Controls and Honeywell can fully instrument the world and create massive computer simulations that give birth to a mirror world Digital Earth image that suddenly seems alive because we humans can measure it and visualize the changes? I imagine we'll see changes within a decade or two.
This week IBM unveiled its new Strategic Water Management Solutions to help governments, water utilities, and companies monitor and manage water more effectively. IBM also released its Global Innovations Outlook devoted to Water [PDF]. Below is a video clip higlighting Big Blue's SmartBay sensor system, which monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels in and around Galway Bay, Ireland
Announcement #2 Novel Water Desalination Membrane [Including Video]
When imagining how much energy we'll need in the future we usually calculate the demand for homes, offices, and factories. But most forecasts ignore a highly probable, energy intensive process that will be in high demand during the 21st century - Desalination.
In the next century we will likely desalinate and transport massive amounts of water away from oceans to reach megacities and irrigate farms that will have to support 3 billion more people added to our planet in the next 40 years.
The Nanoscale Side of H20 How do we do this? Develop 'nanostructured' materials that lower the cost of desalination by facilitating reactions that use less energy to separate molecules leaving clean H20.
Earlier we covered a 'forward osmosis' patent claim by QuantumSphere that reportedly drops the cost of desalination by 70%. But other companies such as CDT and Proingesa are involved in advancing materials used in equally disruptive novel methods for desalination.
Now, Europe's research reporting service AlphaGalileo believes that advances in electrochemical capacitors could enable a new way of cleaning water. Capacitive deionization applies an electrical charge to water that makes 'the ions dissolved in the water migrate towards the electrode of an opposite charge, where they are adsorbed. In the regeneration cycle, the electrical load of the electrodes is switched off, therefore adsorbed ions are released.' The electrode materials used in this process are advancing around nanoscale designs that increase the reactive surface area. The result is less energy need to force the reaction.
Reducing the amount of water needed to grow crops and prevent massive desertification could dramatically reduce the need for energy used in producing fertilizers, irrigation and desalination.
Hydrophobic Sand Nanowerk has featured a story written by Derek Baldwin of Xpress News on the development and use of layers of hydrophobic (water resistant) sand that prevents water from evaporating to keep it closer to the root systems.
The nano-coated sand could be used as a sub-layer for farming, urban landscaping, and a wide range of eco-friendly industrial applications like oil spills.
The proprietary coating process was developed by UAE-based DIME Hydrophobic Materials working with German scientist Helmut F. Schulze. The product's performance has been verified by a German materials testing agency (without details on coating's own environmental impact or longevity) and is now in pilot projects in the United Arab Emirates. Visit: Photo Gallery/Pankaj Sharma