“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.
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.
For my friend James, running water is a soothing noise. For me, gushing water is the definition of aggravation. I can’t help but think of all the other uses for clean water besides going down the drain, while someone brushes their teeth in the mirror. But all this talk about water brings back a memory…
Okay. Everyone knows about BPA-free plastics. Most popular bottled water brands got rid of BPA plastics back in 2008, when studies revealed its toxicity. It’s dangerous to drink from plastic water bottles because you don’t know where the bottles have been. Continue reading “Life in Plastic, it’s Fantastic!”
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”
What makes Lake Rotomairewhenua of New Zealand the cleanest lake in the entire world? It compares to distilled water in its level of clarity and cleanliness. In my last post I covered the possibilities of UV radiation, decreased air pressure, freezing cold temperatures, and limited human interference. After a little digging, I found “The Freshwater Project” by Michel Roggo from Switzerland, a guy whose passion is photographing clear, beautiful waters.
When I visited the famed underground cistern of Istanbul, which once provided a constant water supply for a massive palace, I noted that fish swam around in the water to “reduce bacteria”. Of course we’ve all owned algae eating fish at one point or another that kept our goldfish tanks clean, but these were massive fish that took the form of catfish or maybe even koi. After much wonderment I had the chance to look further into this method of decontamination myself. It turns out that even scientists debate the effectiveness of using fish to clean water. With a little reading I discovered that fish might consume algae in reservoirs in developing countries, but they certainly don’t purify water enough to drink it. Fish catalyze a reaction that reduces ammonia from rain water, making the water more suitable for life but not quite drinkable. Frankly, it sounds like an experiment I’d really love to try.