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Researchers Extract Water From Diesel Exhausts

Researchers Extract Water From Diesel Exhausts

Scientists have devised a new method to extract water from the burning exhaust pipes of diesel engines. The team at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory developing the technology hopes that the system may one day be deployed on military vehicles to replace pounds of heavy drinking water the troops are required to carry.

Staying hydrated on the battlefield can mean the difference between life and death. In the Middle East, soldiers lose on average around 7 gallons of water a day; a hefty amount to carry around, or try to locate in the dry, arid hostile territory.

scientists extract water from diesel engines

Harvesting Water From Military Vehicles

Image Credit: Eric Harris, 2008.

Carrying such amounts of water for several days over long distances seriously limits the troops range and ability to maneuver, however the new system could change all that by providing safe drinking water directly from the exhausts of their vehicles.

The process is known as capillary condensation and involves cooling the air (as opposed to thermodynamic condensation which would involve cooling the exhaust) so that water drops out of it. The team utilizes this process to collect the condensed water in a hollow steel tube with porous walls, which is attached to the exhaust.

Project leader Melanie Debusk, explained in an interview with MSNBC:

“[That] theoretically, one gallon of diesel should produce one gallon of water.” [MSNBC]

Roughly translated, a typically military humvee has a 25 gallon tank, which could provide enough drinking water for three soldiers per tank.

“Considering how much fuel the military uses in the field that would be a significant contribution to the water issue.” [MSNBC]

Debusk did note that note all of the condensed water was recoverable, however it is possible to collect between 65 – 85% of it.

Previous researched had looked into collecting water from diesel pipes using thermodynamic condensation however these systems was bulky, consumed too much energy and were eventually labeled undeployable.

Debusk explained that in theory, capillary condensation should be able to collect more water than thermodynamic, and that by using their system’s porous tube to collect the water, it is continually being displaced which reduces contaminates 100-fold.

The team hopes its system could be the answer to a more portable water extraction system, and are now looking for a $6 million investment to being full-scale development.

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  1. Patrick Morgan: Scientists Announce New Method to Pull Potable Water From Tank Exhaust. Discover Mag, 04/20/2011.
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