Category Archives: Technology

EC Awards 50 Million Euros to 11 Innovative Water Projects

Image: European Commission

Image: European Commission

In Brussels on Thursday, the European Commission unveiled 11 projects slated to receive €50 million to support their innovative responses to “water-related challenges” (to put a lot of different fish in one tank, so to speak).

The projects involve 179 partners representing research organizations and private companies across 19 European countries. There’s a lot of variety in the types of work, as well. Three examples: smarter management of water distribution networks; biotech treatment of heavy metal pollution in wastewater; and new “aquaponic” systems combining aquaculture and hydroponics in agricultural production.  You can see the project names and acronyms listed in the tags accompanying this post, and more description of each project can be found here.

The funds come from the 2013 “Environment call” for projects of the European Union’s s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). This brings total FP7 funding for water-related projects, 2007 – 2013, to more than €1 billion. A new funding initiative rolled out this month, the Horizon 2020 program, is expected to bring another €165 million to water projects in its first round of calls.

Read more:

UPDATE: Event presentations now uploaded

European Commission press release

A summary of each of the 11 projects

European Union water policy overview

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Filed under Agriculture, Awards and Honors, Conservation, Environment, Europe, Events, Industry, Pollution, Research, Sustainability, Technology, Wastewater Treatment, Water Resources, Water Shortage

Water Found in Stardust Could Mean a Universe Seeded With Life

Image: NASA

Image: NASA

Score one for those who “want to believe” in extraterrestrial life, a la FBI Agent Fox Mulder of TV classic “The X-Files.” A cosmic rain of interstellar dust could be seeding planets across the universe with the building blocks of life as we know it — water and carbon. For the first time, a study has found water inside actual stardust, in addition to organic elements like carbon, according to a report in New Scientist.

“The implications are potentially huge,” says Hope Ishii of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, one of the researchers behind the study, in a quote from the article. “It is a particularly thrilling possibility that this influx of dust on the surfaces of solar system bodies has acted as a continuous rainfall of little reaction vessels containing both the water and organics needed for the eventual origin of life.”

Ultra-high-resolution microscopy allowed researchers to detect tiny pockets of water trapped beneath the surface of dust particles. Lab experiments have suggested how the water gets there. The dust, oxygen-rich from silicates, collides in space with a solar wind made in part of hydrogen ions. In the collision, hydrogen and oxygen combine and make water. In theory, anywhere there is a star (e.g., the sun), this can happen.

Read more:

Water found in stardust suggests life is universalNew Scientist

How much of the human body is made up of stardust? – Physics Central

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Filed under Science, Space, Technology

Top 5 Non-Lethal Uses for Drones

Image: Flying Eye

Image: Flying Eye

Happiness is not a police state, and unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t just for the war machine anymore. Though many of us associate drones with bomb strikes and government surveillance, their civilian use is growing more widespread and attracting massive investment. It’s going to go far beyond recent headline grabbers (e.g., Domino’s pizza-delivery tests and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos saying on “60 Minutes” that deliveries by drone will be off the ground in 2015, depending on FAA approval). Essentially, anything that calls for a bird’s-eye view, aerial photgraphy, or lightweight deliveries can benefit from drone service. In no particular order, here are five favorites, already underway:

Monitoring and protecting wildlife.  Some early indicators suggest drones are better at spotting wildlife than people in planes and helicopters are, while also reducing costs and risks to human life. Researchers have found success deploying drones to survey dugongs, a vegetarian marine mammal related to the manatee, in Shark Bay, on the western Australia coast. The U.S. Geological Survey uses drones to count sandhill crane populations. The devices are also used to track endangered Sumatran orangutans.

Delivering medicine. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to George Barbastathis and collaborators at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in the U.S. They’re working on unmanned aerial vehicles that health care workers can deploy via cell phones to swiftly deliver vaccines and the like.

3-D mapping for everyone. Using a lightweight drone and powerful new software, almost anyone will soon be able to create precise 3-D maps for any number of uses, such as crop management, facilities monitoring and disaster relief operations.  Watch Pix4D co-founder Olivier Kung’s TEDx talk on the subject.

Search-and-rescue. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported what they believed to be the first use of a drone to rescue an accident victim. After a late-night car accident in remote Saskatchewan in May 2013, an injured and disoriented man called police but couldn’t report his location. Worse, he wandered far from the crash site.  A helicopter search failed to find the man, even with night-vision gear, but an unmanned drone with an infrared camera did the job. Without it, he would not have survived the night.

Hurricane tracking. Improvements in drone technology have increased the aircraft’s range and flying time, making them invaluable for gathering weather data. An airplane can’t safely stay inside a hurricane for 30 hours, as some drones can.  NASA and Northrop Grumman have teamed up on a $30 million project to monitor storms as they evolve. A University of Florida project is looking at doing similar work with swarms of tiny drones.

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Filed under Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, Industry, Natural Disasters, North America, Oceans, Research, Technology

WFES News: WorldBank Launches Initiative at Water and Energy Summits in Abu Dhabi

Image: World Bank Water

Image: World Bank Water

The World Bank has announced the launch of its “Thirsty Energy” initiative, aimed at helping governments tackle growing water-energy challenges, at the 7th annual World Future Energy Summit (WFES) and the 2nd annual International Water Summit (IWS). The two meetings are running concurrently, Jan. 20 – Jan. 22, at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the United Arab Emirates.

It takes a lot of water to generate power through various processes, and it takes a lot of power to extract, treat and deliver water. Yet, according to the World Bank, energy planning and development decisions are often made without regard to current and future water shortages. Its plan is to offer proactive, cross-sector advice on energy and water resource management planning, tailored according to a given country’s resources, modeling experience, and political and institutional realities.

Why go to all that trouble? Because near-future projections paint a disturbing picture. Today more than 780 million people don’t have enough access to potable drinking water, and about 1.3 billion lack electricity, according to estimates. In a world with a fixed and finite amount of freshwater but a surging population, global energy consumption is expected to swell 50% by 2035, while the energy sector’s use of water may increase by 85%. That means worsening water shortages, and, as noted in a previous post, climate change will make the situation even more dire in certain areas.

UPDATE: Thirsty energy: the conflict between demands for water and energyThe Guardian

More from WFES and IWS:

World Bank launches “Thirsty Energy” initiative – The World Bank / WFES

Will water contrain our energy future? (Thirsty Energy initiative, with extensive info graphics) – The World Bank

Four ways water shortages are harming energy production – The Water Blog (blogs.worldbank.org)

Denmark and Abu Dhabi sign clean-energy deal – The National

Related posts:

On tap Monday: Annual UN Water conference in Spain (Jan. 12, 2014)

Study: Freshwater shortage will double climate change’s impact on agriculture (Dec. 17, 2013)

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Filed under Climate Change, Conservation, Desalination, Environment, Events, Industry, Middle East, Research, Sustainability, Technology, Water Resources, Water Shortage

China Plans to Desalinate Vast Amounts of Sea Ice

Image: columbia.edu

Image: columbia.edu

A Chinese company and a university research team said Tuesday they will begin desalinating sea ice on a large scale to make freshwater for drinking and use in agriculture and industry, the Xinhua news agency reports.

With technological development, the cost of desalination is falling, which makes this kind of industrial-strength effort more feasible than it used to be. It helps that sea ice has much less salt than seawater: 0.4 to .0.8% versus 2.8 to 3.1%, according to the researchers, who are from Beijing Normal University.

Using newly developed equipment, including machinery to break and gather ice, Beijing Huahaideyuan Technology Co. says it expects annual output of 1 billion cubic meters of freshwater at 0.1% salinity by 2023.

Read more:

China to industrialize sea ice desalination – Xinhua

Desalinating ice: an answer to China’s water woes? – Water World  

Study on sea-ice desalination technology – Academia.edu

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Filed under Asia, Desalination, Industry, Oceans, Technology, Water Resources

U.S. Shale Map: Could Be a Lot of Fracking Drilling in the Lower 48

Image: Duke University

Image: Duke University

See the website for the Duke University study on shale gas and fracking, Avner Vengosh research group, Duke Nicholas School of the Environment.

OTHER RELATED LINKS AND POSTS:

Duke study suggests cutting fracking waste’s radioactivity with acid drainage from mines – The Associated Press (Jan. 13, 2014)

Duke fracking tests reveal dangers driller’s study missed in Texas – Bloomberg (Jan.  10, 2014)

Drilling Down on Fracking: Latest News Plus Background (Jan. 6, 2014)

Fracking Across the Pond: In the UK (Jan 8, 2014)

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January 14, 2014 · 10:26 am

Fracking Debate: How Once-Cooperative Attitudes Died

Many U.S. states with stalled fracking legislation — and probably some countries — are watching as comprehensive regulatory plans for hydraulic fracturing unfold in Illinois and California. A year ago, Illinois state legislators, industry officials and environmentalists appeared to be getting along as the state’s first regulations for the natural gas drilling process were passed, but good relations have since dissolved in mistrust. In California, after some relative harmony early on, environmental groups are trying to put the brakes on pending legislation in favor of further study. Any surprises here, as lawmakers struggle with “comprehensive” regs that try to please everyone? Not so much. Associated Press business writer Tammy Webber does a nice job of describing the situations.

RELATED NEWS: Duke fracking tests reveal dangers driller’s study missed in Texas – Bloomberg

See previous posts:

Drilling Down on Fracking: Latest News Plus Background (Jan. 6, 2014)

Fracking Across the Pond: In the UK (Jan 8, 2014)

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Filed under Environment, Fracking, Groundwater, Industry, North America, Pollution, Technology

On Tap Monday: Annual UN Water Conference in Spain

Image: UN Water

Image: UN Water

UN Water’s annual conference in Zaragoza, Spain, runs Monday, Jan. 13 through Thursday, Jan 16. This edition plumbs the depths of the relationship of water and energy as a run-up to World Water Day. The small city of Zaragoza is roughly midway between Madrid and Barcelona. I can’t make it to there myself, but I will be on the lookout for interesting news trickling out of the meetings.

As with a lot of UN endeavors, the full name and description of the event are a mouthful (and you can read much, much more fairly dry stuff at the website): 2014 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Preparing for World Water Day 2014: Partnerships for improving water and energy access, efficiency and sustainability.

Or, because it’s easier to navigate and gives a sense of the topics, you can just read the agenda.

World Water Day is March 22. Of course it has its own website, too.  The main “celebrations” — which include the release of a report and the bestowing of an award — will take place in Japan.

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Filed under Conservation, Environment, Europe, Events, Human rights, Industry, Research, Sustainability, Technology, United Nations, Wastewater Treatment, Water Resources, Water Shortage

Innovative Device Saves Lives in Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan

Image: M-100 Chlorintor, courtesy of WaterStep

Image: M-100 Chlorinator, courtesy of WaterStep

Natural disasters often knock out access to clean water, which can make thirst and disease bigger causes of death than the catastrophe itself. When a massive storm like Typhoon Haiyan strikes a large, densely populated landmass like the Philippines, the risk to health is widespread, ongoing and a huge challenge to large aid organizations.

Shipments of bottled water help, but they’re expensive to execute, they may not reach everyone, and they cause waste. That’s why WaterStep and its small water purifiers make for such a compelling story, as reported by Takepart.com and Fast Company. The Louisville, Kentucky-based nonprofit group sent 60 of its M-100 Chlorinators over to the stricken nation, piggybacked on a flight of volunteer college kids who would act as couriers. The devices would be distributed in remote areas by newly trained nonprofit workers from the Philippines’ second-largest population center, Cebu City, which was spared by Haiyan and has been a staging area for relief operations.

Each device, about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle, with tubes sticking out, can chlorinate about 1,000 gallons (3,785 liters) of water per hour, or 10,000 gallons (38,000 liters) per day, using some table salt and a basic power source, such as a car battery or a solar panel. The byproducts, chlorine and sodium hydroxide, can be mixed to make a saline solution or used separately as disinfectants.

Another technology created for WaterStep bears mentioning, though not necessarily in the context of disaster relief. The group distributes the Water Ball, a durable sphere with handles that can be filled with water and rolled.  In many parts of the world with limited access to clean water, women and children are burdened with the task of carrying water great distances daily; the Water Ball is meant to make it easier to carry more water more quickly.

Read more:

Andri Antoniades reports on WaterStep’s work in Takepart.com.

Stan Alcorn writes about WaterStep for Fast Company.

WaterStep’s technologies.

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Filed under Asia, Bottled Water, Human rights, Natural Disasters, NGOs, Oceans, Technology

Fracking Over the Pond: In the UK

Seismic fracturing, aka fracking, is controversial in the U.S. Proponents say the natural gas drilling method creates jobs and reduces reliance on foreign oil; opponents say it’s a filthy polluter and the consequences of it have yet to be known because not enough research has been done and not enough regulation is in place. The links from The Telegraph and The Guardian below are not direct responses to each other, but they are two sides of a coin, Should Britain follow the U.S.?

Torries: Do you realise fracking is nastier and messier than wind turbines? – Jenny Jones, The Telegraph

Why the UK should embrace fracking – Chris Breitling, CFO, Breitling Energy Corporation, vis a vis The Guardian

News UPDATE, Jan. 13: PM Cameron promises tax boost as incentive to drill – BBC News

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Filed under Fracking, Groundwater, Industry, Pollution, Research, Technology, Water Resources