“UV radiation affects microorganisms by altering the DNA in the cells and impeding reproduction. UV treatment does not remove organisms from the water, it merely inactivates them.” – Water Research Center
For the longest time this summer I worked on a machine that performed persulfate-ultraviolet oxidation, but I really had no idea what it was. Looking at the machine, I could see that an oxygen tank and a beaker of persulfate solution were combining with my water samples and traveling through various tiny twisted tubes into a swirl of madness that then shot out in all directions and ended up in a scramble of numbers on the computer screen. So I asked around. Ten weeks of “asking around” later, and still all I knew was that somehow the glowing blue light was breaking down the carbon in my water samples and measuring its concentration.
On the left, persulfate-ultraviolet oxidation. Right, SteriPEN technology.
Echoing Green is a non-profit organization that provides support to entrepreneurs with solutions to social issues worldwide. Once an entrepreneur presents their idea, they are granted 90 thousand dollars to start their business. Financial advisers and other professionals support each business as they take off with their innovations. I chose to cover three such innovations and their creators on the blog today because I find non-profits essential to humanity. Sometimes it gets discouraging to think about how much financial support is needed to start a business. With Echoing Green, those issues are taken care of and inventors are allowed to do what they do best. They are free to create.
Check out this adorable sign from the maple farm! There are four within our region, some offering pancake breakfasts and horse-drawn sleigh rides through the maple trail. Mom asked if I wanted to go out when I arrived home from spring break, and I thought all I want to do is lay around and do nothing. But the maple farm is only open to the public twice a year, or so she said, and I have a total of 8 other days to sit around and watch t.v. When I called my job at the VA, they reported back about a hiring freeze. Freeze? Hiring? VA? They seemed to know little about it other than the fact I couldn’t come back. So here I sit- slouch rather- twiddling my thumbs over spring break. I’ve been outside a few times already. I even cracked a book. Best of all, I’ve blogged. Continue reading “Spring Break”
The following was my submission to Kelly Engineering Services for an annual scholarship. Although I was not the winner, my essay had a strong message. I titled it: “On Water: The Social Complexities of a Simple Molecule”
Water surrounds us; it is in our showers and baths, it washes our hands, cooks our appetizers and entrée. With it, we continue living like nothing ever happened. Without it, the most basic forms of life could not exist. Although water encapsulates seventy percent of our planet, there are people struggling to find it. I believe that engineers have a responsibility to protect humanity; to share knowledge of technological advances with the world, and correct their mistakes in social and political aspects. As of late, issues such as the Flint water crisis and Porter Ranch methane leak reflect engineering at its worst in the US. However, I still hold true that engineers are capable of so much more.
A Finnish University recently discovered the benefits of crystallization, or freezing water in order to purify it. Essentially, these scientists found that the upper layer of ice from a lake in Finland was nearly ten times cleaner than the water beneath. In addition, ice that had formed more slowly was noticeably cleaner than rapidly formed ice. This event called crystallization can only occur with the presence of a solvent and solute, such as water and salt. A professor from Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) made the statement below regarding the study. Continue reading “Clean as Ice”
Most sources on the internet state that ozonation water treatment dates back to the 1800s. The truth is that ozonation could only take place once electricity was discovered, so ozonation as a water treatment method wasn’t studied until the 1840s.
I will explain two popular ways to produce the ozone needed to treated water: You can 1. pass oxygen through an electrical field to split and reorganize the individual atoms as O3, or 2. You can pass O2 through ultraviolet light for the same effect.
This specific method of water treatment is not cheap, with units running around 200$. It is best for commercial use, pools, and providing large amounts of clean water for a short amount of time. The Water Research Center explains the pros and cons of this method on their webpage. I summed up the advantages and disadvantages in my own words, as ozonation can get pretty complicated. Continue reading “Ozonation”
Aquaporins. In simple terms, these are water channels in the cell wall that allow for H2O molecules to travel in and out of the cell so that the cell won’t swell and explode. Scientists discovered that by using these aquaporins, you can sort out H2O molecules from otherwise impure water. Aquaporins themselves are very small and delicate, so a screen is used and the aquaporins are melted onto the layer of net. Impure water can then be sifted. Right now this technique is generally used in industry because it provides ultrapure water. Ultrapure water is a solution so clean that the taste is repulsive. It doesn’t have the nutrients and minerals in tap water so it can be shocking to taste, but it works great for cleaning or soaking machinery for big companies.
“Aquaporins are selective membrane channel proteins found in the lipid bilayer of living cells that work to transport water across the cell membrane. Aquaporins accomplish this task while excluding any unwanted ions or other polar molecules, making them a perfect model for the formulation of low-energy water filtration systems” (The Biomimicry Institute, 2016).
Aquaporins have a bright future for desalinating seawater. But wait! If these aquaporins are great at filtering water, why aren’t they in use right now? Developing countries could really use a simple technology like this with a good efficiency and low cost. According to Professor Peter Agre at John Hopkins University, “The engineering of this will have some technical difficulties because the native membranes are very tiny and so only nano-water purification can occur”. The sensitive membrane can only handle a few drops of water at a time.