How much does your bottled water cost? Where is it sourced from? And what does its label say?
Nature’s Best, based in Sydney, treats tap water and slaps “pure, safe” on the label of a 600-millilitre bottle, which is typically marked up by 1720 per cent to $2 in shops across Australia.
“The water is basically free, so I see it as just selling plastic bottles,” said Warren Peffer, owner of Nature’s Best, which sells 25 million units each year. “Our filters are not a huge cost; being filtered may be part of the appeal for some.”
A Fairfax Media survey of bottled water sold in Sydney’s cafes, supermarkets and convenience stores has found seven out of 34 brands are “purified” tap water.
The average price of bottled tap water is $2.75 per litre, with the cheapest being a Pureau 600ml in a six-pack at $1.41 a litre from Coles, and the priciest a Mount Everest 600ml at $4.17/lt from City Convenience – reflecting the logic that buying in bulk leads to a better deal.
Sydney’s most expensive water is Santa Vittoria in a green 250ml glass bottle at Woolworths. It is a staggering $12/lt – a price usually seen at fancy, hatted restaurants.
The average price of spring and mineral water is $5.18/lt, with the bargain being a Harris Farm 600ml at 60¢/lt in a 12-pack.
Australians are guzzling more bottled water than ever before, with the latest Euromonitor figures showing annual sales of still bottled water soared to 466 million litres in 2015, 39 per cent more than in 2010.
“The two main reasons are health and convenience. A lot of people are switching from soft drink, and bottled water is an easy, on-the-go alternative,” said Euromonitor’s Sara Agostino.
Fairfax Media spotted farcical claims on labels, such as “Suitable for vegetarians and vegans” on Aldi’s Northbrook spring water.
The label on Nature’s Best carries lines such as “Refrigeration after opening is recommended” and “Not for re-use”.
Mr Peffer said his water tastes better cold: “If you drink lukewarm water that’s been sitting in the car, it’s just not so nice, so it’s a recommendation to make it nicer.”
On its website, Saka Water Australia states its spring water from Turkey’s Koroglu Mountain has “no sugar, no fat, no calories”.
Its director Richard Ayoub argued the claim is necessary to make people “aware that unlike soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, with Saka Water you are not having any of the above.”
The website also declares Saka achieves “Better absorption than any other water brand”.
Mr Ayoub said tests by a kinesiologist showed: “On average, most regular brands absorb at 60 per cent, tap water at 62 per cent, electric alkaline ioniser at 92 per cent and Saka Water at 99 per cent, 100 per cent with a squeeze of lemon.”
The survey also found Capi Mineral Water Still has the highest sodium content at 50 milligrams a litre.
While sodium is an essential nutrient and consumed in large amounts in food, an official state health guideline suggests people with high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney problems and preparing baby formula should take extra care when the sodium content is above 20mg/lt.
Ben Woysky from Capi said the bottle featured a typical water analysis of minerals at the source.
“These minerals vary season to season and are very dependent on factors such as rainfall and drought periods, which can skew the level of minerals in water,” he said.
“The contents of each bottle may not reflect what is actually stated on the label. It is not regulated in Australia.”
Sydney Water adds small but effective amounts of sodium, fluoride and chlorine, among other things, to produce high-quality tap water that’s safe to drink.
Its principal public health adviser Peter Cox said guidelines limit sodium to 180mg/lt, but its tap water was well below that and the focus was primarily on taste.
“We once considered bottling our drinking water, but we learned even if you take the cleanest water out of a spring, the micro-organisms will change the water quality,” he said.
“People like to believe bottled water is pure, straight from nature, with no human intervention, but it has to be treated.”
The survey also found a third of the bottles were tinted blue, which strengthens the image of purity. Some have opted to use see-through labels, such as Capi, Fiji and the new-look Evian, which desires to “showcase the purity of the contents”.
Gary Mortimer, marketing expert at Queensland University of Technology, said manufacturers use labels, colours and design to appeal to different market segments.
“Marketers can’t claim bottled water is better for you than tap water, so they use things like ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ or use images like snow-cap mountains to lead us to believe that,” he said.
Of the 34 brands surveyed, eight were from overseas, with Evian, sourced from the French Alps, and Voss, from southern Norway, travelling the furthest.
Mineral Water – Ground water obtained from a subterranean water-bearing strata that, in its natural state, contains soluble matter. It must have a level of total dissolved solids of greater than 250 parts per million. No minerals may be added.
Natural Water – Bottled spring, mineral or well water which is derived from an underground formation or water from surface water that only requires minimal processing, is not derived from a municipal system or public water supply, and is unmodified except for limited treatment.
Purified Water – Bottled water produced by distillation, deionisation, reverse osmosis.
Spring water – Ground water obtained from a subterranean water-bearing stratum that, in its natural state, contains soluble matter. No minerals may be added.
The team developed a technique that uses small recording devices to collect data, which is then run through mathematical models to pinpoint leaks (Credit: Ibai / CC 2.0)
In the average distribution system, as much as 30 percent of treated water is lost due to simple, fixable leaks, but the problems are often located underground, and can be hard to pinpoint. Now, researchers at Canada’s Concordia University have developed a technique that could have a big impact on the problem, using “noise logger” devices to spot underground leaks to an accuracy of 99.5 percent.
It’s easy to take having a good supply of clean water for granted, but it’s actually a huge global issue, and one that’s getting much worse, with as much as a third of the world’s population expected to experience scarcity issues by 2025. A recent MIT study also looked at the issue, using various computer simulations to determine that a significant percentage of the population of Asia could suffer from water shortage by 2050.
So, what can we do about it? Well, the Concordia research team decided to focus on improving existing systems by developing an accurate method for detecting leaks, which are thought to be responsible for the loss of, on average, between 20 and 30 percent of treated water. Older systems can be even less efficient, losing as much as 50 percent of the water passing through them.
If you’re looking to repair a suspected leak, it’s important to know exactly where the problem is, with excavation and resurfacing being expensive, and mistakes having the potential to cause unnecessary disruption.
The researchers’ solution involves installing “noise loggers” throughout a water network, using them to record noise, listening out for leaks. The units are magnetically attached to manholes, valves or hydrants across a network, switching on at a predetermined time – usually at night when background noise is minimal – to record decibel readings of noise level and spread, for a two-hour period.
The devices are battery-powered, measure 12.3 cm (4.8 in) tall and 5 cm (2 in) wide, and weigh 700 g (1.5 lb) each. If a noise that’s picked up by a logger during its recording period is found to be consistent, then it’s likely due to a leak. With that data in hand, the Concordia team’s technique then uses predictive mathematical modelling to pinpoint the exact location of individual leaks.
“This approach can reduce the duration of a leak, as well as the cost and time involved in locating the site in need of repair,” said paper co-author professor Tarek Zayed.
The team tested its technique in Qatar, which has the lowest rainfall rates, and some of the highest evaporation rates in the world. The water loss problem is thought to be worse in the country, with leaks causing as much as 35 percent of water to be lost in the average distribution network.
Placing noise loggers across the Qatar University main water network, the team was able to run the data collected through mathematical models to pick out the location of leaks. Checking the identified locations revealed that the system was working at a 99.5 percent rate of accuracy.
Moving forward, the team intends to try out the technique in other locations, while further developing and improving the leak location predictive models.
The uranium that seeped into the ocean through crippled nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 was universally condemned as the egregious result of a nuclear meltdown. The “radiation plume” that became a Youtube sensation was later denounced as a hoax, but concerns reached as far as the North American west coast as to how far the radioactive isotopes had travelled by ocean currents. To this day authorities in Japan regularly test the fish caught off the shores of Japan for levels deemed safe for human consumption.
But what if that same uranium could be somehow harnessed and brought back into the nuclear fuel cycle? For the past five years scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy have been examining that question. The DOE notes that in the 1990s, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency pioneered materials that hold uranium as it is stuck or adsorbed onto surfaces of the material submerged in seawater.
In 2011 the DOE put together a team from U.S. national laboratories, universities and research institutes to address the challenges of economically extracting uranium from seawater. Now, the team has developed new adsorbents that reduce the cost of extracting uranium from seawater by three to four times, according to the energy department, which first released their results in April.
That teamwork culminated in the creation of braids of polyethylene fibers containing a chemical species called amidoxime that attracts uranium. So far, testing has been conducted in the laboratory with real seawater; but the braids are deployable in oceans, where nature would do the mixing, avoiding the expense of pumping large quantities of seawater through the fibers. After several weeks, uranium oxide–laden fibers are collected and subjected to an acidic treatment that releases, or desorbs, uranyl ions, regenerating the adsorbent for reuse. Further processing and enriching of the uranium produces a material to fuel nuclear power plants.
Marine testing at PNNL showed an ORNL adsorbent material had the capacity to hold 5.2 grams of uranium per kilogram of adsorbent in 49 days of natural seawater exposure—the crowning result presented in the special issue (published in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research).
How much uranium is in the ocean? According to the DOE press release the oceans hold more than four billion tons of uranium— “enough to meet global energy needs for the next 10,000 years if only we could capture the element from seawater to fuel nuclear power plants.” While that sounds like a lot of potential nuclear fuel, a quick check of the World Nuclear Association website shows that uranium concentrations in seawater are significantly lower than those found on land. The real challenge, therefore, would be extracting the uranium economically at such low parts per million.
For example uranium exists in the Earth’s continental crust in concentrations of 2.8 parts per million, versus 0.003 parts per million in seawater. The highest-grade uranium ore, for example in Saskatchewan’s Patterson Lake region, has concentrations of 200,000 parts per million. The World Nuclear Association estimates there is a total of 5.9 million tonnes of uranium available, none of it presumably calculated from seawater; the four largest producers, in descending order, are Australia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Canada.
Supply of uranium. Graphic from the World Nuclear Association.
Flash floods are common in many parts of the country and should not be taken lightly. If you get stuck in a vehicle during a flood, keep your cool and follow these steps.
The number one rule when you encounter any water crossing the road is to turn around. It might look like a little bit of water that’d be easy to ford, but underestimating the depth of the water and strength of the current has cost many people their lives. According to the American Red Cross, most cars are swept away by less than two feet of water.
Fortunately, the driver in the video below had already exited his Jeep before it succumbed to flooding.
If fast-moving water has already surrounded your vehicle, and your car is either stalled out or not moving in the right direction, then you need to get yourself out of there as quickly as possible and get to high ground. A strong current can be dangerous to navigate on foot, so it’s best to ditch your car as soon as possible. If you get swept away by the water, try to grab whatever you can to pull yourself to the side. Maneuver over any objects you encounter, not under. Wait for help to arrive instead of entering any floodwater.
Getting swept away while inside your vehicle is extremely dangerous. Although it sounds counterintuitive, if you’re stuck inside your car, you’ll want to roll down your windows and allow water to enter your vehicle. You can escape from your vehicle through the window or, if that’s not possible, wait until the water pressure is equal on both sides of your door so it will open.
If your vehicle has successfully made it through a flood, it will undoubtedly have suffered some water damage. Here’s how to repair it to prevent mold and corrosion. Do this as soon as possible.
If you ever find yourself up against a flash flood, keep a level head and remember: A vehicle can be replaced, but lives cannot.
More flash flood videos below
Uploaded on Jan 10, 2011 above
Watch as a small creek turns into a raging wall of water, sweeping away cars from a car park, I count at least 20 cars being swept away! This is utterly insane.
This is from the flood in Toowomba on 10th January 2011
Uploaded on Jul 20, 2011 above
This unfortunate incident took place on 17th July 2011 in Madhya Pradesh, India. Five persons got caught in the rising waters of a flash flood. They lost their footing and got swept over the waterfall. As per last available reports two were saved, one dead body was retreived and the remaining two were missing. Local people had warned the tourists against sitting in the risky areas of the stream to which some seem to have paid no heed.
Published on May 23, 2015 above
In the Texas Hill Country, right outside of Tapatio Springs Resort, a vehicle is seen trying to pass over rushing water. His attempt was unsuccessful.
Published on Jun 11, 2015
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There’s a buzz at the point where wastewater and energy meet—and the buzz phrase is “energy neutrality”. Hear it this week at the Ozwater conference, on any day at the University of Queensland Advanced Water Management Centre, in the offices of Melbourne Water and Yarra Valley Water… in Australian cities and country areas.
As populations increase, our demand for water is growing; as the flow of water in and water out stretches Australia’s environmental capacity, regulations are necessarily being tightened, requiring more intensive water processing; and all the time the electricity meter at the wastewater plant is ticking over, and over the top. Figures from UNESCO in 2015 estimate that electricity accounts for 40% of all operational costs in wastewater treatment.
As the price of electricity climbs and the need to reduce carbon emissions grows, Australia’s more than 700 community sewage treatment plants have begun seriously paddling towards energy neutrality—a state of operations in which they produce as much energy as they use.
And yes, our wastewater utilities, do have a paddle in this endeavour—an oarsome set of options—in the form of rapidly developing technologies that will both reduce electricity requirements and capture the energy generated through breaking down biosolids.
In fact, watch this space as new technologies transform water-treatment utilities from energy consumers to energy producers.
If energy neutrality is the buzz phrase of the moment, the core concept in turning the wastewater tide towards productivity is to view treatment plants not as waste-disposal facilities, but as resource-recovery plants, says Jeff Peeters, senior product manager at GE Water & Process Technologies. Based in Canada, Peeters is widely considered a thought leader in the field of water processing, and has turned a masters of engineering toward commercialising innovative water-treatment systems.
In a recent guest column, The future of energy-neutral wastewater treatment is here, for Water Online, he writes: “We all need water and energy, and we all need to take part in the efforts to secure them for generations to come. Water reuse, policies and partnerships, and emerging disruptive technology solutions are vital to the cause.”
One strategy used by wastewater facilities to achieve neutrality in their energy consumption is to produce energy onsite by harnessing renewables such as wind, solar and hydro power. But the real disruptor here is increasingly efficient technology for capturing and using energy generated by the very breakdown of biosolids (sewage sludge) and biowastes (household and commercial food wastes, fats, oils and grease) that treatment plants are contracted to carry out.
Advanced anaerobic digestion processes, such as that developed by GE’s Monsal, maximise biogas yields from waste and/or wastewater solids, delivering more energy than previous digestion systems, which were often deemed uneconomical. Peeters explains anaerobic digestion, in simple terms, as using “bacteria in the absence of oxygen to break down organic matter to create biogas. The biogas can then be combusted or oxidised and used for heating or with a gas engine to produce electricity and heat. It can also be compressed and used as fuel for vehicles or sold for use in a natural-gas grid.
“Consider this,” he continues: “A city of 500,000 people produces roughly 75,000 tons of household and commercial food waste and more than 14,000 tons of sewage sludge. By treating that waste with advanced anaerobic digestion, the value of the methane byproduct used in one of GE’s Jenbacher gas engines would produce about 5MWe of electricity alone—enough to power 10,000 homes.”
Smart city! One of the key themes of this month’s Ozwater conference has been Liveable and sustainable cities of the future, with speakers from Flinders University, Beca (engineering and project management), Sydney Water and Veolia (water, energy and waste management) posing recent findings and solutions to the wastewater-energy equation.
New technologies can transform treatment plants from energy customers to energy producers.
The infrastructure and logistical change required to swing a small city to processing combined biowaste and sewage sludge does require some capital outlay. But GE also has a focus on low-hanging-fruit approaches that can help utilities burdened with older infrastructure simultaneously switch down their power usage and switch up processing to meet increased demand.
In partnership with the Metro Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Peeters is leading a GE team in carrying out large-scale testing of ZeeLung, GE’s latest water-treatment membrane technology.
Chicago’s Metro Water operates the Terrence J. O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant, one of the largest sewage-treatment plants in the US, which processes almost a billion litres of sewage each day. Says plant manager Sanjay Patel, “It takes a lot of energy to do what we do. My electric bill is about US$5 million a year. So anything we can do to cut back on that bill would not only help us, but also help the citizens who pay the taxes.”
ZeeLung membrane-aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) technology uses a quarter of the energy required by fine-bubble aeration, which is widely used to provide oxygen in activated sludge processing. ZeeLung improves on the process by transferring atmospheric air down the lumen of hollow fibre membranes; oxygen is then diffused through the membrane walls to a biofilm that grows on their outer surface. Microorganisms in the biofilm break down, or metabolise, the organic compounds in the sewage. Says Peeters, “ZeeLung addresses the largest energy consumer in wastewater-treatment plants: the aeration process, which is responsible for approximately 60% of energy used.”
In an interview with Treatment Plant Operator magazine last month, Peeters explained, “Until now, the game in aeration has been how to make smaller and smaller bubbles, because that increases the surface area of air in contact with the liquid. That has limitations in transfer efficiency, as typically 60% to 70% of the oxygen that goes into the basin comes out at the surface and isn’t used. With ZeeLung MABR, we use a membrane to diffuse oxygen directly into a biofilm.”
Unlike GE’s ZeeWeed membrane filtration systems, which famously protect Australia’s Great Barrier Reef from dirty-water outfalls, ZeeLung does not filter the water. Although it looks identical to ZeeWeed, its bundles of membrane fibres, deployed in cassettes and installed in the aeration tank are made of material “that has an affinity for diffusing oxygen”, says Peeters—“it’s a gas-transfer membrane”.
Importantly, ZeeLung cassettes can be installed in new plants or retrofitted to existing aeration tanks. In this way, it can upgrade space-constrained facilities to meet new regulatory requirements or expand their capacity without increasing their footprint.
For Sanjay Patel at the Terrence J. O’Brien plant, “The promise is that it would cut back on our aeration energy by about 40%. That’s a lot of money to gain!” And it will take the Chicago plant one large step closer to energy neutrality.
Enabling great leaps in energy reduction for utilities is at the heart of GE’s Energy Neutral water portfolio, which also includes LEAPprimary. This advanced primary wastewater treatment system combines separation, thickening and dewatering of primary solids in a compact unit that reduces the energy used in conventional biological treatment by 25%.
For wastewater-processing facilities, “energy efficiency has not historically been at the top of the list of priorities,” writes Peeters in Water Online. But, “Energy conservation, on-site generation and renewable energy are becoming increasingly important to wastewater utilities as energy policy, energy economics and actions to mitigate climate change converge with the need to meet higher standards of wastewater treatment… Emerging disruptive innovations in technology combined with operational best practices are bringing into focus the opportunity to achieve energy-neutral wastewater treatment.”
Something to spout about: QGC’s Northern Water Treatment Plant can take up to 100 million litres of brine a day, piped from the coal-seam-gas fields of Queensland and turn it into water that’s suitable for irrigation or industrial purposes in this rainfall-challenged region. Now the 2016 Global Water Awards has recognised the performance and innovative excellence of QGC’s water-recycling efforts in naming the Northern plant Industrial Water Project of the Year.
Water flowed freely to celebrate the win announced by Felipe Calderón, chairman of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, in the doubly dry city of Abu Dhabi this April. The prestigious awards, inaugurated in 2006, recognise initiatives that “are moving the industry forward through improved operating performance, innovative technology adoption and sustainable financial models”.
Commissioned in May 2015, the $550 million Northern Water Treatment project was delivered by an alliance between GE and Laing O’Rourke Australia. To satisfy the most stringent environmental regulations, it pumps the effluent of thousands of coal-seam-gas wells through four phases of GE advanced water-treatment technologies; the water running ever sweeter and clearer from its saline beginnings as it passes through ZeeWeed submerged ultrafiltration, ion-exchange, three-stage reverse osmosis (RO) and brine concentration.
“The reverse osmosis produces clean water, or permeate, but in order to maximise the recovery of water, the QGC plant includes brine concentrators,” says Mike Rees, regional commercial leader, GE Power & Water. Reverse osmosis results in some 90% recovery of clean water from the original brine; the concentrators increase that flow to around 97%.
“This is certainly water that would not otherwise be available,” says Rees of the output of three variously sized plants in the region, all constructed by QGC (part of the BG Group which was recently acquired by Royal Dutch Shell). “There are a number of agricultural enterprises which are taking full advantage of a more certain, constant supply of water.”
While the processes were designed to maximise water delivery, construction of the plant components was planned to minimise disruption to roads and communities in this remote region—it was largely carried out offsite. The pipe racks were designed to enable a “plug and play” installation sequence before being brought to the site by truck in carefully timed transport envelopes. The 120-tonne concentrators were manufactured in New Zealand, shipped “across the ditch” to Queensland, trucked overland, and installed using one of the largest mobile cranes in Australia.
QGC and other coal-seam-gas companies in the region supply the three massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plants on Curtis Island just off Gladstone on the Queensland coast. This multibillion-dollar venture to produce LNG from coal-seam gas is a world first. Similarly, says Rees, “The treatment of coal-seam-gas-produced water on this large a scale is, we’re proud to say, also a world first.”
He says one of the major challenges in processing water produced in wells by CSG drilling is that unlike seawater or brackish water which is characterised by relatively consistent salt content, CSG water varies widely. “Over the life of the whole CSG-to-LNG project, they’ll be drilling thousands of wells in different gas fields, and from well to well the water volume and water quality can vary significantly. This plant needed to be capable of handling a wide range of of potential raw water quality and flow rates—it had to have enough flexibility to produce water of the required standard, no matter what the input, day in, day out.”
The Global Water Awards 2016 acknowledged public debate in Australia over coal-seam-gas produced water and concluded: “A practical, pragmatic solution such as this cuts through the rhetoric to the heart of the problem, enhancing QGC’s social licence to operate through its emphasis on responsible treatment and reuse.”
Top photo: QGC’s $550 million commitment to providing clean water from coal-seam gas mining has scored a 2016 Global Water Award: Industrial Water Project of the Year.
Climate-KIC, a European-union climate innovation initiative, recently selected a jury of entrepreneurs, financiers and business people to award funding to what they felt were Europe’s best clean-tech innovations of 2014. Taking first place was Dutch startup aQysta, a Delft University of Technology spin-off company that manufactures what’s known as the Barsha irrigation pump. It can reportedly boost crop yields in developing nations by up to five times, yet requires no fuel or electricity to operate.
Although the Barsha pump (Nepalese for “rain pump”) is a new product, it’s based on a very old design – it has its origins in ancient Egypt.
The pump itself is essentially a water wheel on a floating platform, that’s moored in a nearby flowing river. The moving water rotates the wheel, that in turn utilizes a spiral mechanism to compress air. That air drives water through an attached hose and up to the fields.
It’s claimed to be capable of pumping water up to a height of 25 meters (82 ft), at a maximum rate of one liter (0.26 US gal) per second. According to its designers, it has zero operating costs, only one moving part, can be built from locally-available materials, and should provide a return on investment within one year of use – for diesel-powered pumps, they claim that the figure is closer to 10 years.
Of course, it also creates no emissions.
The first Barsha pump was set up in Nepal this July, and a business is now being established there to manufacture and market the devices. Plans call for similar developments in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
A sample of beryl and an illustration that shows the strange shape water molecules take when found in the mineral’s cage-like channels (Credit: ORNL/Jeff Scovil).
You already know that water can have three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. But scientists at the Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) have discovered that when it’s put under extreme pressure in small spaces, the life-giving liquid can exhibit a strange fourth state known as tunneling.
The water under question was found in super-small six-sided channels in the mineral beryl, which forms the basis for the gems aquamarine and emerald. The channels measure only about five atoms across and function basically as cages that can each trap one water molecule. What the researchers found was that in this incredibly tight space, the water molecule exhibited a characteristic usually only seen at the much smaller quantum level, called tunneling.
Basically, quantum tunneling means that a particle, or in this case a molecule, can overcome a barrier and be on both sides of it at once – or anywhere between. Think of rolling a ball down one side of a hill and up another. The second hill is the barrier and the ball would only have enough energy to climb it to the height from which it was originally dropped. If the second hill was taller, the ball wouldn’t be able to roll over it. That’s classical physics. Quantum physics and the concept of tunneling means the ball could jump to the other side of the hill with ease or even be found inside the hill – or on both sides of the hill at once.
“In classical physics the atom cannot jump over a barrier if it does not have enough energy for this,” ORNL instrument scientist Alexander Kolesnikov tells Gizmag – Kolesnikov is lead author on a paper detailing the discovery published in the April 22 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. But in the case of the beryl-trapped water his team studied, the water molecules acted according to quantum – not classical – laws of physics.
“This means that the oxygen and hydrogen atoms of the water molecule are ‘delocalized’ and therefore simultaneously present in all six symmetrically equivalent positions in the channel at the same time,” says Kolesnikov. “It’s one of those phenomena that only occur in quantum mechanics and has no parallel in our everyday experience.”
By using neutron-scattering experiments, the researchers were able to see that the water molecules spread themselves into two corrugated rings, one inside the other. At the center of the ring, the hydrogen atom, which is one third of the water molecule, took on six different orientations at one time. “Tunneling among these orientations means the hydrogen atom is not located at one position, but smeared out in a ring shape,” says a report in the online news journal Physics.
“This discovery represents a new fundamental understanding of the behavior of water and the way water utilizes energy,” says ORNL co-author Lawrence Anovitz. “It’s also interesting to think that those water molecules in your aquamarine or emerald ring – blue and green varieties of beryl – are undergoing the same quantum tunneling we’ve seen in our experiments.”
Because the ORNL team discovered this new property of water but not exactly why and how it works, Anovitz also says that the finding is sure to get scientists working to uncover the mechanism that leads to the phenomenon.
Kolesnikov adds that the discovery could have implications wherever water is found in extremely tight spaces such as in cell membranes or inside carbon nanotubes. The following video from ORNL provides more details on the discovery.
Polluted water can at times make swimming in the sea or a pool risky, on the other hand aquatic organisms such as water boatman need the nutrients in dirty water to feed on. Taking inspiration from water beetles and other swimming insects, academics at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) have developed the Row-bot, a robot that thrives in dirty water. The Row-bot mimics the way that the water boatman moves and the way that it feeds on rich organic matter in the dirty water it swims in.
The Row-bot project aims to develop an autonomous swimming robot able to operate indefinitely in remote unstructured locations by scavenging its energy from the environment. When it is hungry the Row-bot opens its soft robotic mouth and rows forward to fill its microbial fuel cell (MFC) stomach with nutrient-rich dirty water. It then closes its mouth and slowly digests the nutrients. The MFC stomach uses the bio-degradation of organic matter to generate electricity using bio-inspired mechanisms. When it has recharged its electrical energy stores the Row-bot rows off to a new location, ready for another gulp of dirty water.
Jonathan Rossiter, Professor of Robotics at the University of Bristol and BRL, said: “The work shows a crucial step in the development of autonomous robots capable of long-term self-power. Most robots require re-charging or refuelling, often requiring human involvement.”
Hemma Philamore, PhD student, added: “We anticipate that the Row-bot will be used in environmental clean-up operations of contaminants, such as oil spills and harmful algal bloom, and in long term autonomous environmental monitoring of hazardous environments, for example those hit by natural and man-made disasters.”
The prototype robot combines two subsystems; a bioinspired energy source and bio-inspired actuation. The first subsystem shows the power generation capability of the robot. A second duplicate system starts the refuelling process and moves the robot with an energy requirement that is less than the energy generated by the first system. This is achieved by feeding on chemical energy contained in its surrounding fluid to support microbial metabolism inside the MFC.
Mimicking the water boatman’s feeding mechanism, which employs a broad beaklike mouth to sweep in both fluid and suspended particulate matter, the Row-bot feeds its MFC stomach by opening and closing the mouth-like orifice at each end of the MFC through the bending of a flexible acetate envelope structure. By using both these systems the robot can be totally independent in water providing enough energy is available in the fluid.
The Row-bot was developed at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaboration between the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol, by PhD student, Hemma Philamore and her PhD supervisors; Professor Jonathan Rossiter from the University of Bristol’s Department of Engineering Mathematics and Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos from the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of the West of England.