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Turning air into water and CO2 into fuel — Two global challenges

By Karen Graham     Jun 26, 2017 in Technology
The World Economic Forum's annual list of emerging technologies were selected for their potential to solve the many critical global challenges we are facing today, including techniques that convert air into water and CO2 into fuel.
In the World Economic Forum's top 10 emerging technologies of 2017, you can find a diverse group of technologies selected by the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network and Global Future Councils in collaboration with Scientific American and its Board of Advisors.
The group of experts chose the top 10 technologies based on their potential for improving lives, transforming industries and saving the planet. Murat Sönmez, the head of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Member of the Managing Board of the World Economic Forum said: “New technologies are redefining industries, blurring traditional boundaries and creating new opportunities on a scale never seen before. Public and private institutions must develop the correct policies, protocols, and collaborations to allow such innovation to build a better future while avoiding the risks that unchecked technological change could pose."
This proof-of-concept device  built at MIT  demonstrates a new system for extracting drinking water ...
This proof-of-concept device, built at MIT, demonstrates a new system for extracting drinking water from the air. The sequence of images at right shows how droplets of water accumulate over time as the inside temperature increases while exposed to the sun.
Harvesting clean water from air
Extracting clean water from air is not new, however, existing techniques require high moisture levels and a lot of electricity. On the other hand, solar power is an amazing source of energy, and that energy can be used to produce water from the air in low humidity conditions.
The new technology was developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley using a special material called a metal-organic framework, or MOF that was developed at UC-Berkeley. The scientists developed what they call a solar-powered harvester.
The harvester is filled with over two pounds of dust-sized MOF crystals compressed between a solar absorber and a condenser plate, are placed inside a chamber that is open to the air. As the ambient air diffuses through the MOF, water molecules attach themselves to the porous material's interior surfaces.
Sunlight heats up the MOFs, causing the water molecules to move to a condenser where the water vapor condenses into liquid water. The device can extract about three liters (3.2 quarts) of water from the air in 12 hours
A Source pilot program in Ecuador shows that one solar panel can provide drinking water for a family...
A Source pilot program in Ecuador shows that one solar panel can provide drinking water for a family of four.
Zero Mass Water
Another approach in making clean water from the air has been accomplished by an Arizona startup called Zero Mass Water. Their device is called Source and is being tested in water scarce countries in Ecuador, Jordan and Mexico. Using solar panels, the system pulls moisture from the atmosphere to provide clean drinking water.
With the Source system in place, three to five liters of water can be pulled from the air every day. Zero Mass Water CEO Cody Friesen says, "When you think about solar today, what do you think about? Electricity," he says. "Everybody thinks that way. I think that in a few years when people think about solar they'll also think about water abundance."
Barcaldine Solar Farm in Barcaldine  Queensland is 222 acres of over 78 000 solar panels  and will p...
Barcaldine Solar Farm in Barcaldine, Queensland is 222 acres of over 78,000 solar panels, and will provide power to 10,000 homes.
Making liquid fuels from sunshine
The basic question is this - How do we create artificial photosynthesis to generate and store energy? Tough question, right? But scientists have been working on the problem using metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) as a catalyst to split water molecules into water and hydrogen and then using the same hydrogen to convert CO2 into hydrocarbons.
The catalyst was developed and is intended to be used with solar technology. The discovery comes from the laboratories at the University of Adelaide in Australia, and functions to drive the process of combining carbon dioxide with hydrogen to produce methane (the main component of the fossil fuel natural gas) and water.
This research is important because in a closed system, CO2 emitted by combustion is turned back into fuel, and this could lead to the full replacement of fossil fuels while also allowing the energy industry to use existing carbon-based fuel technologies, with the effect of no increase to levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Scientists are also developing an Atlas of Gene Expression by Human Neural Stem and Progenitor Cells...
Scientists are also developing an Atlas of Gene Expression by Human Neural Stem and Progenitor Cells.
University of Rochester Medical Center
We are living in an exciting time. In the past few years, we have witnessed great strides being made in the field of medicine, from genomic vaccines to the creation of the Human Cell Atlas, an international initiative that aims to create an atlas of every single cell in the human body, an invaluable tool for improving and personalizing health care. We have also made great progress in the field of quantum computing, green architecture, sustainable farming and zero-emission technologies. It will be interesting to see where we are this time next year.
More about World economic forum, emerging technologies, global challenges, Water, Fuel
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