Making better, purer, water with technology
When we turn on the faucet or open a bottle, we’re fairly confident in the cleanliness of the water that we drink. That confidence is exclusive to the developed world. Currently, about 700 million people worldwide live under the threat of water scarcity, while in labs, scientists are creating the purest water in the world.
By Emily Folk
How did scientists achieve this feat, and what can the rest of us do to protect one of the most valuable resources on our planet?
Solving a Mystery
The creation of the world’s purest drop of water was due to a mystery. Scientists were trying to figure out why a substance like titanium dioxide (TiO2) — one of the most hydrophobic materials known to man — will form a dusty film if left alone in a dark room. They theorized that it was reacting with some trace impurities in the water, so they set out to create water without any impurities.
This goal is a challenge because water likes to collect things as it moves through pipes and the air. They accomplished their objective by creating a vacuum in a super-cooled chamber kept at -220° F. Then, they were able to develop ultra-pure ice by introducing super-pure water vapor into the low-pressure chamber.
Eventually, they determined the film didn’t have anything to do with water or water vapor — the film is made up of acetic and formic acids, which exist in the air in small quantities and react with the TiO2.
But in the meantime, they’d created a method for generating ultra-pure water. While it isn’t useful for purifying existing water sources, it is a unique new technique to remove contaminants from water.
(Originally posted at Emily Folks’ blog, Conservation Folks)